Etude for iOS Developer Speaks

etude app

Etude for iOS is an App that every budding and expert pianist should have. Etude is the ultimate way to learn to play music on the piano. The App displays crisp clear sheet music, helps to learn the keys to press on the keyboard at each moment, browse loads of free music available, and listen to music using the in-built synthesizer. As the developer describes it, the App is “Sheet music on Steroids.” We talked to Daniel Grover to learn more about the App, and its phenomenal success story.

1. How did you start developing for iOS?

I had already developed in Cocoa on the Mac for several years. When the iPhone SDK came out, I figured I’d jump in.

2. What do you think about the iPad 2 rumors? What features would you like to see in the new iPad?

Clearly there’s going to be an iPad 2. I think the iPad 1 is perfectly fine though.

If you wanted to decide what the next step was, you’d have to ask yourself what the iPad is to begin with. I don’t think we know that. If you ask some, it’s the next evolution in personal computing. If you ask others, it’s a giant iPhone.

I see the introduction of the original iPhone as a critical turning point in human computer interaction.

Every GUI designed since the 80’s until now has tried to find nice ways of presenting pre-existing “computer concepts” — things like hierarchical filesystems, executables, network connections, user accounts, processes. The task of interface designers was to find better names, come up with metaphors, and give users a “spoonful of sugar” to help the medicine go down.

iOS, however, is the first operating system designed not to make “computer concepts” easier, but to eliminate computer concepts from its vocabulary as much as possible. And in particular, the value of the innovation of the “app” cannot be understated. An app is not a synonym for “program.” An app is now, in the public mind, the smallest, indivisible, controllable unit of software complexity. People who can’t figure out how to configure things in an app at least have 100% confidence that they can install them successfully and, should things go wrong, remove them. This is more than you could say for most computer users even four years ago — or even most Android users today.

Anyway, Apple realizes they’re onto something with all of this, and they’re trying to capitalize on it before everyone else figures it out. They’re advancing the radical de-computerization of computers on two fronts, both the Mac and iOS.

The evolution we’ll be watching is Apple trying to make the iPad more like the Mac and the Mac more like the iPad, without losing the strengths of either platform.

The rub here is that the problem with Mac OS X isn’t that it’s not enough like iOS — it’s that it’s too much like Mac OS 9.

So to stop before I pontificate even further and make a fool of myself, iOS 5 and Mac OS X 10.7 excite me much more than the iPad 2, which will be pretty much the same as iPad 1.

etude1

3. Do you plan to port Etude to other platforms including the Mac?

No concrete plans now. But never say never.

4. How has your experience been with Apple? How long did the review process take?

Typically, it’s taken no more than 2 weeks to get an app or an update out. Usually it’s around 1 week, and a couple times even as quick as a day.

Apple does find some pretty arbitrary and capricious nits to pick sometimes, but it seems like they’re getting better.

Apple actually called me and raise concern over the use of the shopping cart icon in the “store” in Etude 1.0. When I explained that, of course, when paid music is added, I’d have it no other way than to use in app purchase, they were fine. I explained it was simply to prime users on the idea of the app eventually having a store where you buy stuff. That matter didn’t take a protracted month long process, just a 5 minute call.

Some of the stories I’ve heard from my friends have been much worse though.

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5. Etude allows users to download music or free. Will the songs always be free or are you planning to move to a different model?

Of course we’re planning on moving to a different model.

6. Can you describe your Eureka moment with the App?

After I went full-time with my business, and was able to successfully grow ShoveBox (a Mac/iPhone productivity app), I was in a very uncertain state and wanted to get a second horse in the race.

So I mocked up about 4 different apps that I thought would be fun, and one of them was Etude.

It began as a MIDI player/synthesizer that I had written for fun when the SDK first came out. I had dismissed it as a viable app because I couldn’t think of any reason someone would want to play a MIDI on their phone, and how I could even explain that to someone.

A couple friends of mine wrote an app called Classics, which was a beautiful e-book reader well before iBooks. Functionally, it was no different than the scores of ebook apps with public domain content that appeared on day 1 of the iPhone App Store. However, they managed to bring such a flair to the experience and catch so many peoples’ attention that it was successful, both commercially and critically.

So the initial “high concept” for Etude was “Classics for music”, and the original name was Opus, until the last minute when I realized I needed to change it.

The second eureka moment was when I realized that I had something that wasn’t just something I could show off to the “delicious generation”/daring fireball crowd, but something that could actually be a first for its platform, and even change the way people learn music. I have not achieved that yet, but I’m working on it, and will hopefully have some exciting announcements in the future.