For months, MakeMusic has been saying SmartMusic 10 is coming. The amount of hype they have been making is akin to Microsoft and it’s “new” Vista operating system. MakeMusic hasn’t even updated the current version of SmartMusic to handle files generated by Finale 2007 which was released way back in August. To create files, you need to have 2006 still installed on your computer.
The other day, I received a packet from MakeMusic. I was shocked. It looked like SmartMusic 10 had been release. Alas, it was not. Instead of spending money getting the stupid program out, they chose to spend quite a bit of money to continue the “hype” of the vaporware SmartMusic 10. This packet probably cost $10 to put together. Perhaps more.
Let us examine the contents of this “hype” package….
First, there is the letter by John Paulson, CEO of MakeMusic. To paraphrase, he’s pleased to introduce version 10 and it’s FREE web component SmartMusic Impact. Yada Yada. No Child left behind age. Post assignments, email alerts when due. It will assess their performance and manage grades and recordings. (Oh joy, I can’t wait to see how they do this…..they have such a great interface in version 9).
Nothing really gleamed from his letter.
Next piece of paper, SmartMusic 10 Fact Sheet. SmartMusic 10 includes
- 200 new concert band, jazz ensemble and orchestra titles that use professional quality audio recordings. That should be interesting. Plus, they come with on-screen notation and tempo control. Sounds great. I’m keeping the fact sheet to keep you guys honest MakeMusic.
- New content every month. “Look for at least 60 new ensemble titles every month. More advanced repertoire schedule for this summer.” Whoa. Since SmartMusic 9’s repertoire has languished for a while, this will be interesting. Can they really deliver what they promise? I’m thinking not, looking at their track record so far.
- MakeMusic is going to provide free, secure servers use for teachers and students to transfer files back and forth. No email. To me, that sounds a little funny. What about privacy? What about making sure MakeMusic doesn’t do anything with any of the recordings that are stored there? There are a lot of details that are left out.
- All of SmartMusic’s repertoire can be made into assignments. Now that should be interesting. A lot of the accompaniment files, in fact, a majority of them, do not have on-screen notation. How are people going to make assignments off of those? Should be interesting.
- Easily save recordings and assessment information to create digital portfolios. On your computer? On MakeMusic’s secure server? No details.
- Finally….SmartMusic can play any recording at any speed and any key. You can make a recording of your ensemble and play it back at slower tempo to study technique and ensemble issues. Ok. Considering I could not get my MOTU 828 firewire interface to work with SmartMusic, but could get it to work with every other program on my Mac, is MakeMusic expecting users to use that crappy little microphone they sell? Seriously? It is March 25. MakeMusic, April 1 is still a week away. The slowing down of audio, pitch and key control sounds good. But, there are a ton of programs ranging from Free to $50+ that do this very, very well. Are users going to be able to save the files? Store the files? Is SmartMusic 10 going to support MP3 files? Non-protected AAC files (ie: music ripped in iTunes MP4 (AAC) but not bought from the iTunes store (no DRM))? WAV or AIFF files? Directly from CD?
- Shipping in the next several weeks. Can we be more vague? April? May? June? No idea. The MakeMusic forums don’t hint at anything either.
Looking at MakeMusic’s Fourth Quarter And Fiscal Year 2006 Results, it seems they are hopeful of success. What I would like is a program that works better. For all the things I have generated in SmartMusic, are they going to sound better? Am I going to be able to hear real instrument samples playing them now? Doubtful. Am I going to be able to use Garritan or something to generate the sounds? Doubtful. I think the existing SmartMusic library will still be hobbled by the 90s video game sound library they use. Upgrading the sounds that SmartMusic 10 uses would have been a huge update, and probably touched upon in the Fact Sheet.
I would be happy if they redid their crappy user interface. If anything screams Microsoft more than MakeMusic missing shipping dates and promising everything, is the user interface. Slow, poorly thought out. Major attention needs to be focused to it.
I would also be happy if they could get other interfaces to work with the recording part of SmartMusic. Like I said, my MOTU 828 will not record at all in SmartMusic. It plays through it fine. No recording.
I’m not hopeful that I will see SmartMusic 10 anytime before June. It really is starting to sound like a Microsoft product, promising the world, but giving you a grainy fax copy of a bad picture of the world. I would be delighted to see them actually deliver what they are promising.