Does Ableton Have New Competition?

Last Thursday the Berlin-based software company Bitwig, which has several ex-Ableton Live developers, announced the impeding release of Bitwig Studio 1.0.  Bitwig 1.0, like Ableton Live, plans to be a platform for both music production and performance.  At first glimpse, it seems to have taken many of Ableton Live’s workflow and layout innovations and incorporated them.  They are promising a couple of features, however, which if they come off as promised, will raise the bar for the use of laptops in live performance:

1. The ability to synch laptops into one set via LAN: This would be a huge step for live performance since multiple performers could synch their laptops allowing for the integration, not only of different musical sources, but video as well.

2. The ability for different laptops to synch onto the same set via internet so that production could take place over the internet: Again, great idea.  Imagine a show where the performers are based on different continents?

3. The ability to create your own instruments with a modular system.

Now, I think Ableton is a fantastic piece of software and I completely endorse it for both performance and production.  That being said, I think competition (if Bitwig is in fact able to compete) could be a good thing for artists and performers because it will accelerate the pace of innovation.  It’s also striking to me how so much of this cutting-edge development is now centered in Berlin.  It’s really too early to predict how Bitwig will change things, if at all, and there is also the unanswered question of what innovations Ableton will include in its version 9.