MICROSOFT CUTS SOME NEW MIXES
Microsoft is starting to make a lot of noise about its upcoming release of the new Surface 2 and Surface Pro 2 tablets — and talking of noise we’re also seeing a gizmo called the Surface Music Kit. Essentially it’s another folding screen cover that plugs into and interfaces with the Surface 2, all part of a concept from Microsoft called “Blades”, but instead of a QWERTY-style keyboard it provides a grid of 16 pads, sliders and buttons to control an included app called the Remix Project, which gives you access to music stems of popular tunes for remixing. Linkin Park is a part of the initial promotion, otherwise there’s scant information yet just who will be providing these stems, how much they will cost or the means by which music licensing and copyright obligations will be met — you’re encouraged to share your remixes on the web. Right now it’s hard to regard the Surface Music Kit as little more than a novelty that might appeal to aspiring DJs and new musicians. But what did pique our interest was the possibility of third-party pro-audio manufacturers embracing the Blade model and producing peripherals of their own, should the idea really take off (and Microsoft allow it, of course). Any kind of custom-designed surface might be possible. The pads of the SMK Blade are velocity-sensitive making it a more tactile interface than a touch screen (yes, some on-screen pads vary in velocity across the pad area, or use an accelerometer, but it’s not the same as simply bashing the pad harder). Some musicians and engineers wary of remotely controlling, say, a digital console with a touch screen might find a Blade interface safer and more appealing.
A lot’s got to happen, not the least being a significant increase in the Surface’s performance in the tablet market, before you can imagine the pro-audio industry getting on the Blade bandwagon. But if it does we might see some very interesting gadgets indeed. You can join the Remix Project at www.surfaceremixproject.com and have an opportunity to win a Surface Music Kit when it’s available.