Windows and General MIDI (a sad, true story)

February 2011 Ed note: I wrote this in July 2009 for ePiano – and have slightly edited and republished here:

Dear Chris (an MS support engineer), As founder of a company that develops music software and integrates music systems for schools as our primary business, and has installed over 300 PCs solely focused on their MIDI capabilities – mostly leveraging properties of Creative Labs Soundcards, I am continuously anxious about Microsoft’s direction/support of MIDI and aspects of the Audio stack.

While Music and Arts is clearly not the prime target for Microsoft, to REMOVE or decrease support/functionality in this area is going to challenge this portion of your business…

Here are the two simple requirements that Microsoft must consider to remain a functional competitor to Mac in this area (Mac has both of these):

1.  Multiclient USB Midi support in Compliant Driver:   Running more than one program that makes use of MIDI in or OUT will cause a program or the system to generate an alert/error condition to the effect of “Cannot find a MIDI driver on the system”.   There are solutions to this via Third party hardware/drivers – but more and more keyboards/instruments guitars featuring USB ports and “compliant” MIDI outputs will experience this error/condition and will only serve to diminish the Windows experience and create confusion.

2.  Low Latency upgradeable GM sound source.  GM wavetable synth may have been a great innovation at one time, but it is an unusable output for music making.  The latency is unusable, and even though the sound quality poor, it’s the latency that kills it.  A solution with 20ms or less latency is the right choice.  Being able to insert a soundfont would be strategic, and in one single move, regain the support of music education and entry level music production.

This is a request based upon living daily the possibilities of a software-enhanced music making world and its ability to benefit the hundreds of thousands if not millions of people who will use the power of a USB keyboard and a desktop/laptop computer for music making.  PC laptops are already handicapped for music making/MIDI, but don’t kill the desktop too!  Help?  Is there anyone, anyplace I can direct this line of thinking to at Microsoft?   This is my first post regarding this and I’d like to get in touch with a dept as MS that might benefit from some of our experience on this front.

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