With Depeche Mode iPhone App, Cambridge’s iZotope Boosts the Mobile Drumbeat

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really blown up in recent years. This takes you a step beyond just mimicking something and lets you pull apart the sounds and put them together in different ways. It’s a little more compelling and creative.

X: With CD and album sales down so much lately, do you think that making interactive applications like this one is becoming an obligatory part of the overall marketing effort for music groups?

ND: There is huge buzz around the iPhone app store right now, and just having iDrum and the other apps like it out there is important for the music industry. Obviously, Nine Inch Nails has gotten a lot of press around their iPhone app recently. I think it’s just one more way that labels and artists can get exposure for what they’re doing. For Depeche Mode, which hasn’t had an album out in a couple of years, for them to do this is just one more way they can be visible, and do something a little bit different from what everybody else is doing.

Mute is an amazing label. They were, I believe, the first record label to have an online presence, back in the BBS days even before the Web. It’s to Daniel’s credit for seeking us out. The app gives fans a next-generation way of interacting with music, and that’s what’s important to us. We have a couple more [special editions] lined up. I can’t talk about the specifics, but there are some big labels now that have digital product divisions where they are looking for ways to infiltrate places like the iPhone app store and get their message out.

X: How hard a transition has it been for iZotope to go from making desktop audio engineering software to writing iPhone apps?

ND: We come from a PC and Mac development background. When the App Store came along and we were able to play with the SDK [software development kit] for the iPhone, we knew we wanted to try something out. It was pretty much all new, so we had to start from scratch, as far as the development process. But there are also versions of iDrum for the PC and the Mac, so we spun this idea off from that. We have these drum machine and sequencer tools, and to make something more consumer-focused and interactive for the iPhone was a perfect fit. You have the touch screen, and it’s actually a very capable little computer. You can use gestures like shaking to reset all of the sound patterns. You can use the flick gesture to move to the next sound in a sequence, as well as just tapping the screen to start a drum pattern. It opened up a lot of possibilities that we couldn’t even do on the PC or the Mac.

X: Have you considered porting iDrum to other mobile platforms such as Android or Blackberry?

ND: We’ve talked about it, and it’s definitely a possibility. The nice thing about the Apple platform is that there is basically one device that you’re developing for, whereas with Android or Symbian OS or Blackerry you have to think about a number of different devices, some of which might have touch screens, others of which might not. That’s one reason the iPhone App Store has really taken off—it’s like developing for Windows or Mac, it’s set in stone. But we wouldn’t rule out doing something for Android or Symbian.

X: Last question—how many folks work at iZotope, how are you funded, and are you proftable?

ND: We’re currently about 20 people. We’re owned by our founders, Mark and Jeremy, and we are profitable. We have just built up our business around our pro audio products and licensing components. We’ve been growing slowly and steadily and we continue to grow. We’re in a very good place, considering where the economy is.

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Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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