What Apple Didn't Mention About iOS9

Audio Units      09/06/15

What Apple Didn't Mention About iOS9

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Yesterday at the WWDC (Apple's World Wide Developer Conference) while the keynote speech was what everyone focussed on - with several enhancements to the iOS-o-sphere and OS X, even most trivial of which seem to garner whoops and excessively enthusiastic applause (I never understood this dynamic), however one of the biggest additions which could impact music creation was not made much of. And this is news of a new Audio Unit extension in iOS9.

This is part of the Extension Point architecture which has been expanded under iOS to include various extra ways to interract with third party code - a good thing as the iOS is somewhat of a walled garden.

The documentation summary on Apple's iOS 9.0 page:

  • The Audio Unit extension point allows your app to provide musical instruments, audio effects, sound generators, and more for use within apps like GarageBand, Logic, and other Audio Unit host apps. The extension point also brings a full audio plug-in model to iOS and lets you sell Audio Units on the App Store.

To learn more about creating app extensions in general, see App Extension Programming Guide.

This seems to indicate that Audio Units plug-ins could be integrated into iOS 9.0 applications. Which could be a good thing because....?

People coding AU applications for the desktop may be able to repurpose their code to work under iOS with little modification - well apart from the GUI which we know causes many headaches across platforms, so it won't be all that painless.

But essentially it could mean that there's less overhead in working on both platforms, which increases the possible sales, which encourages more people to invent cool stuff. According to developer Tempo Rubato (nLog synth pro)  this will also open up the App Store to AU developers as iOS 9 AU extensions will be able to be sold in the App Store.

This is a Good Thing.

At the same time, Apple announced that Swift - their native coding language for iOS and OS X is going open source with architecture in place for OS X, iOS, WatchOS and Linux. This is another bold move allowing it to become extended and added to by the wider community - and presumably meaning higher adoption rates by coders. Swift 2.0 has been promised to be Open Source by the end of the year.

Full documentation is not available just yet to get the full impact of what Audio Units Extensions mean, but it is likely to introduce additional sandboxing and security issues into the development process as iOS is a walled garden OS unlike Android.

Android however, negelected to code audio capabilities directly into the Kernel at an OS level, which means for it to become a contender in real-time audio applications, we're going to need a ground-up rewrite for this problem to be solved. Although we have seen third party companies address this with external hardware - it does not change the fact that the round trip for audio, has a lot of delays en route.


Thanks to Daniel Stenning for the spot

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