There are scads of piano-keyboard applications for the iPhone, but I find the lack of tactile feedback frustrating. The touchscreen interface seems better suited to sweeping gestures than tapping ones, although programs like Bebot have implemented clever workarounds. (See 5:50 in this Jordan Rudess demo):
But with Apple opening up the iPhone's dock connector to third parties, I wonder: Couldn't a manufacturer develop a hardware music keyboard with an intelligent docking station? You'd slot in your iPhone and get a high-res screen, tactile controls, and all kinds of sound-making capabilities.
It's not a new idea. Back in 1992, Novation released a keyboard controller that had a slot for a Yamaha QY10 synth. The combination paired the QY10's capable sound engine and sequencer with full-size keys and wheels, but notice the cable spaghetti. Imagine this with a one-click iPhone dock; quarter-inch audio outputs; and some velocity-sensitive, light-up drum pads as well. With 25 keys, the music keyboard could even do double duty as a QWERTY keyboard replacement. (Play harder for capital letters. ;-)
Seventeen years ago, Novation created a music keyboard for the QY10 portable synth. Time for an iPhone version? (Photo: Malcohol)
What would you attach to an iPhone dock connector?
UPDATE, 2010-01-28: Akai showed the iPK25, a hardware music keyboard for the iPhone, at the NAMM show earlier this month. A rep told me the hardware was pretty close to the shipping version, but I found the feel of the minikeys and wheels to be cheap and sticky. The dock connector snapped off early in the show when someone tried to swing the attached iPhone up. However, I saw another MIDI device for the iPhone that looks much more promising. More soon!