Bringing Advanced Production to the Casual User
Introduced in 2003, iLife was one of the software packages that truly began to shift consumer perception of Apple, and midway through the last decade, programs like iMovie and GarageBand quickly made the Mac a focus of young computer users who were democratizing the means of producing art and sharing it via social networking and streaming media services. Along with its support of portable devices, and useful product design, it was this focus on creative production applications that allowed Apple to stake its claim in the growing market and come out on top. The programs in the iLife suite were not professional level tools, but their simple interface preceded engines powerful enough to produce professional products. This format was too beyond what we imagined could be ported over to something as simple iPhone, a device that easily fits in one's pocket. This notion has been blasted away by hardware improvements, upgrades in iOS, the format changes provided by the iPad's touch-based interface, and now with the iPad 2.
Video Production Goes Mobile
Apple's announcements on March 2nd were mostly focused on the iPad 2 and iOS 4.3, but a few specific applications began to draw the crowd's eye a bit. iMovie was now to be transitioned onto the iPad, utilizing touch features to bring the non-linear video editing functions to content that you actually film on the device itself. PhotoBooth, not directly a product of iLife, yet still in direct interaction with its iPhoto software, is now a direct way that users can take portraits on their iPad 2. Most impressive, however, was the addition of GarageBand, bringing the of array of features that few thought possible on a tablet running iOS. This marks a major change in public perception as to what the iPad is capable of, but more importantly, it signals a change in how Apple intends to develop for it. Instead of seeing the iPad, and by proxy, the iPhone, as simplified devices that are subservient to a computer overlord, they are gradually granting them the creative tools of the iLife package, the software that made Apple computers what they are today.
Extending iLife to the portables, especially devices like the iPad, comes comes from a need to reach a wide range of computer users. Primary this comes from the evolution of the device that has mobility matched with functionality. iMovie which led the way for the entire iLife package was introduced for iOS once the iPhone became capable of recording full 720p HD video. Though the iPhone 3Gs had simple video editing functions, they were nothing compared to what the iPhone 4 would be capable of with iMovie. While the feature may seem unnecessary since one could easily sync video their Mac and edit within iMovie for OS X, it defeats the purpose of the new social networking workflow of iDevices. As iPhone apps begin allowing video upload, and as MMS messaging and email of video content become a standard, it seems natural for these Web 2.0 features to move to the immediate, rather than delayed, workflow. The immediacy of working from a full service mobile device like the iPad 2 serves this function perfectly, and now there seems to be no reason that you can not film, edit, and publish an original video within minutes. This only further extends the way that Apple has tried to move the media world into the direction of the consumer.
Incorporating Social Networking
The adaptation of iMovie or Photo Booth to the iPad 2 is logical, given that the trading and sharing of photos is one of the most marketed uses for these burgeoning mobile devices. GarageBand, in a different form, is much more difficult to continue over. GarageBand really does bring the complicated process of audio production to the masses in a form that is manageable, but it would not be the first software product that people would think could be easily developed for a restricted mobile platform. When Steve Jobs finally announced that GarageBand would be coming to the iPad through the iOS 4.3, most onlookers could not have expected the depth that would come with the application. In reality, GarageBand on the iPad 2 is going to allow for an incredible amount of features in audio and music production. This also includes virtual instruments such as the piano, guitar, and drums, all of which allow for a direct amount of control by selecting sound types to focus this out. The success of mobile audio production is still to be seen, but what it shows to the public immediately is that the iPad has the hardware capabilities to actually handle the features that make GarageBand the success it has been. The iPad developed out of a music-specific device, and now allows for recording and sharing audio and bringing music into a completely mobile social network. The kinks of the software may not be worked out, and the touchscreen is still somewhat limited since GarageBand originally designed for a mouse and keyboard, but for the most part, it looks as though the iPad is going to be able to support this software and take it into a mobile pattern of use.
The Future of Production on Mobile Devices
The question is beginning to come up about whether or not Apple is going to bring iLife mobile entirely, which seems unlikely in its current incarnation. iDVD, for example, is a primary part of the iLife package and directly links iMovie to DVD authoring. This would obviously have no place on iPad as it currently exists, and it's a safe bet that Apple is not developing a DVD burner as an iPad accessory. Instead, what we will see is a fragmentation of iLife, where the package will be curtailed for different systems with different expectations based on what people expect from their device and what the device is capable of. This will affect the Mac as much as it will the mobile devices in that the expectations of what will be in programs like iMovie and GarageBand for OS X will only increase when the features are compared against what is capable on the much less powerful iPad. For the tablet specifically, this will mean developing independent programs to challenge the workflow that is on the Mac, possibly developing a full service web publishing tool linking to a whole series of social networking services as an alternative to iDVD. The relationship between the mobile version and the base version is still unsure, and there is likely to be a lot of reflexivity between the two. Right now it remains completely open as to how Apple will develop the iLife package in the future, but it appears certain that iLife is here to stay on the mobile line and that this will help push the iPad into the world of media production instead of mere consumption.