Will Microsoft's Surface Book and Bitwig Studio 1.3 be a multitouch match made in heaven?

Things are starting to get interesting if you want a high-end multitouch device for music making. Apple looked to have raised the bar when it announced the iPad Pro, which may well turn out to be the best iOS-toting tune-crafting tablet you can buy, but this week has seen announcements from Microsoft and Bitwig that could upset the touchscreen applecart just a little bit more.

As well as launching the Surface Pro 4, a more powerful version of its tablet-with-a-keyboard, Microsoft has also unveiled the Surface Book, which is better thought of as a laptop with a detachable screen that can then be used as a tablet. It's powerful, too; indeed, many in the tech press are already touting this as one of the best Windows laptops on the market. What's more, a slick design means that it could have the desirability factor, too.

Not entirely coincidentally, Bitwig has also announced that version 1.3 of Bitwig Studio is almost upon us. In fact, you can download the release candidate now, and the news is that it's all about multitouch. In fact, it's optimised with a special display profile for Microsoft Surface Pro and Surface Book.

The headline new features from the spec sheet are:

  • Multi-Touch: Control multiple faders, knobs, and device displays at the same time. Multi-touch is limited only by the capabilities of the hardware on which Bitwig Studio is installed.
  • Radial Menu: Press and hold anywhere on the screen for a quick access menu for multiple actions.
  • Touch Keyboard: An integrated keyboard that includes X/Y axis controls independent for each finger. An additional dimension, "Pressure" is available when using the Touch Keyboard with Pen and Microsoft Surface Pro.
  • Track Header: One single button has effectively replaced four. Simply tap and swipe in a direction to activate
  • New E-Cowbell Device: You've got a fever, and the only prescription ...is more cowbell.

Check out the video above - and those on the Bitwig website - to see those touch features in action. Bitwig says that it worked with Microsoft on the project, and it's clear that both companies have a lot to gain from getting this right. Bitwig is attempting to gain more traction in the highly competitive DAW market, and being seem to be ahead of the curve when it comes to touch support could certainly help its cause (although Image-Line and Cakewalk have already made moves in this area with FL Studio and Sonar respectively).

Microsoft, meanwhile, needs a killer Surface app to convince musicians that what they need isn't a Mac and an iPad, but rather one Windows device that ticks every box (ie, it can run a full DAW and a wide range of VST plugins). The iPad Pro might be big and powerful, but it's still not the OS X touchscreen machine that a lot of people would like.

The battle, then, could be very much on. The Surface Book will be released on 26 October with a starting price of $1,499, while the Surface Pro 4 can be pre-ordered now from £749/$899.

Ben Rogerson

I’m the Deputy Editor of MusicRadar, having worked on the site since its launch in 2007. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 24 of which I’ve also spent writing about music and the ever-changing technology used to make it.