July 31, 2012

iControlMIDIDesign calls it a day…

If you, like me, own an iPad and several old synths, you have probably already run into iControlMIDI apps on the Apple Store. If you are nothing like me, you may not be aware of their decidedly niche offering. Sadly, I am not here to sell you on it, rather, but to mourn its passing. iControlMIDI apps replace the old hardware programmer units (or provided them when they had never existed in the first place) that had been devised for those with a little more money in their pockets that were looking to speed up the patch/sound design process.

Apparently, many others didn’t agree with the pricing on these apps, which were in the $30-50.00 range. Some have called this “prohibitively expensive,” and I am unsure if I agree. It seems like the field the app was being released to is pretty “niche.” To give you an idea, while the group “people who own iPads” is large enough and growing all the time; the field of view narrows significantly when you add the qualifier “and own vintage synth X.” At any rate, as someone who does happen to own “vintage synth X” in a number of cases, I found these apps to be useful and a bargain compared to hunting down the original hardware programmers built for controlling older hardware. In the cases where no hardware controller was ever issued, the iPad apps seemed even better. My favorite is the TX81Z programmer app. This made patch design a breeze on a rack mount FM synth as famous for its Lately Bass preset (Babyface lived on this one) as it was for its required amount of menu diving. The only real complaint I ever had about the apps were that they required you to zero the patch out, because, while they sent the SysEx data to shape a patch, they could not read the SysEx from one. So manipulating exiting patches required a bit of knowing what you were headed in to adjust. This made it less accessible for the “just learning” types. I still use the bejeezus out of mine though.

My initial encounter with the apps on the app store had led me to follow the trail back to the web site and contact the developer. He was quite friendly, and helped me figure out the best way to also use the TX81Z programmer with a DX100 I have. Upon a request for some other models to be added to the series I was told he would be glad to develop anything if I would send him the synth for a bit. I never followed up on this, but hadn’t ruled it out. However, it appears that as the apps have failed to yield a certain amount of income, perhaps, developer Michael Rosner has become a bit less enamored with being contacted about his product. Michael made the announcement to the chagrin of those who were fans of the apps or who had been waiting for a tidal wave of consumer desire to bring down the prices. Here’s his announcement:

Babyface, among others, might have been a good endorsement to seek out for the TX81Z app...

Due to insufficient sales, we have to terminate this project.

So, what does it mean?
• We will not be releasing any new Apps
• We are leaving our Apps on the App Store for maintenance purposes only (updates, bug fixes, etc…)
• Apple will automatically remove all our Apps from the App Store in 01/2013 as we will not renew our iOS License Agreement
• If you are an iControlMIDI licensee you are most likely safe with our Apps (which runs fine on iOS 4.2, 4.3, 5.0, 5.1 and 5.1.1); the only risk our Apps fail is Apple updating iOS and breaking our Apps. This will not happen if you are an iPad 1 owner as iOS 6 will not run on that device (we are not saying here that our Apps will not run on iOS 6!). It seems that Apple will be dropping older hardware support so we are entering into a firmware scenario and safe for years to come. However, this depends on Apple, not on us, so we cannot guarantee it.

Thanks for your interest in iControlMIDI, thanks for your business.

That said, you probably won’t be shocked that Michael received several requests to the effect of “Hey, bro, did you consider making the app cheaper?” As Tim from found out, this was a question for which Michael has lost all patience. Michael’s reply has apparently become standard issue in the time since his announcement and amounts to:

“Who are you? Do we know each other? Are the the CFO of a Fortune-100 software editor? Are you a Partner a KPMG? Do you have a MBA from Harward? What I’m reading here is as good as what I can read in the ‘free press’ while riding the subway to work in the morning which ends up in the subway trash when I arrive to work! Now I’m going to give a VALUABLE piece of advice. If you do not like our Apps or its pricing; download XCode and develop an App of your own with the pricing you want.”

Look for this to again appear on the future program no one has thought to develop yet called “When Failed App Developers Attack,” which will likely be cancelled after the first episode. It’s a shame to see this product go. Maybe someone will, in fact, take his suggestion and run with it. At the very least, I’d love to see an open source community develop around improving and expanding the iControlMIDI lineup; but I am sure not gonna be the one who reaches out to Mr. Rosner on the matter. In the meantime, it appears those of us who jumped/jump in and grab these while they are still available won’t end up up a creek unless Apple ends backwards compatibility with iOS upgrades. We shall see. If any of you smart cookies out there want to pick up where Michael left off and run with the ball, be sure and let us know. I’d love to see this project continue in some form or another.