This the first of what I hope will become a series of interviews with mobile music developers. Paul from 4Pockets gives an insight into what's important to the developer that brought us MeTeoR and AudioBox to name only two of their outstanding applications.
PS: Where would you like to see your applications going in 2008 and beyond?
4P: If possible I would like to build on the success of our sound applications. Winning two Pocket PC magazine awards this year was a real boost, especially since these products are nominated by the public. Ultimately I would love to see us combine the audio recording features of our multi-track recorder MeTeoR, and the software synthesis and sequencing of AudioBox. This is more of a long term goal than something I've penciled in for 2008. I may have to wait for technology to catch up before this becomes a reality.
PS: In 2007 platforms have begun to shift radically with the iPod Touch / iPhone, Google's Android OS, and Palm's OS II. How will platforms change what you develop?
4P: Apple has really shown the way in terms of interface design, and I'm sure this will set new standards which the rest have to follow. I've never been a fan of the Apple products, and I always found the iPod inferior in terms of sound quality to other products such as the Archos and Creative products. However, even I gave in and bought an iPod Touch, simply because I'm a technology freak, and it's a pleasure to use, despite still being inferior in the sound department. I'm still not convinced however that combining an MP3 player and a mobile phone is a good idea, and the iPhone is still far too expensive.
PS: Will you consider developing for the iPod Touch / iPhone when the SDK becomes available?
4P: I'm sure we will take a look at the SDK, only then will we know the full potential of the device. Whilst you can unofficially install third party applications on the iPhone / Touch, these tend to be poorly implemented and rather simplistic programs. Lets hope this isn't a limitation of the device and just a lack of a decent SDK.
PS: Do you think that there is a future in mobile music making, or will it remain as largely a hobbyist's thing
4P: If we look back at the type of music programs we were running 10 years ago on 400Mhz PC's, they were very limited, mainly due to processor speed. In the main most music packages such as Cubase and Cakewalk were at best very good midi sequencers, rather than hard disk recorders. I feel the Pocket PC technology is about where the PC was 10 years ago, but I am sure that as technology evolves and CPU speeds improve, so will the quality of portable music software. At present, peoples expectations of portable devices is way ahead of the technology. Currently the lack of mass storage and FPU mean that this type of application are hard to develop.
PS: What was the most technically challenging application you have created?
4P: I think MeTeoR is definitely the most challenging product we have written so far. This product can handle up to 12 44Khz tracks, with effects, which takes some serious processing power and pushes the device to its limits. Sound editing is also quite a challenge on portable devices as they aren't best equipped to edit 500MB files, something even a PC would have problems with. Possibly the biggest challenge is dealing with the poor latency of these devices, but I think these problems will eventually be resolved as technology and CPU speeds improve.
PS: What application / feature are you most proud of and why?
This is a hard question to answer because we try to add something new and innovative to all our products. I'm proud of the software synthesis of AudioBox, the time shifting capabilities of Virtual Recorder, the technology behind Pocket RTA, and the graphics engines of Red Sector and Harry Putters Crazy Golf.
PS: What do your users ask for most?
4P: We pride ourselves in trying to give our customers what they want, which is basically born out by the existence of programs such as MeTeoR and Virtual Recorder. However, it does help that audio software development is something I have always been interested in.
PS: What are you working on right now?
4P: Currently I'm working on a vector engine for our forthcoming release, Pinball Evolution.
PS: What one development could make application development easier for you?
4P: The introduction of an FPU. Whether you develop 3D graphics applications or signal processing algorithms, life is made so much harder for not having a floating point processor.
PS: When you make music, what kind of music do you make?
4P: I've always been a fan of early electronic music, such as Gray Numan which is where my love of synths and sequencers comes from. However, over the years my tastes have changed, and I now prefer guitar driven music.
PS: What are you listening to?
4P: Another difficult one. I'm a fan of live music, and my favorite band at the minute is Within Temptation, a gothic metal band with one hell of a singer (think Evanescence only better). I'm also a big fan of bands such as Muse, Placebo, and older bands such as Pink Floyd and Rush.
PS: What would you like for Christmas this year?
4P: Probably an iPhone, but I refuse to buy one until the price drops!
Thanks Paul, I hope that 4Pockets has another excellent year in 2008 with even more innovative applications, and congratulations on this year's awards.