Kontrol 2024 outlook: what was, what now, what next?

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Matthew_NI
Matthew_NI Product Team Posts: 988 mod
edited May 15 in Komplete Kontrol

Hi, folks!

We're constantly enhancing features and revisiting old ones. Many of you have asked for clarity on certain issues, or for a clearer roadmap in general, so let's dive in.

This is an open dialogue - your thoughts, feedback, questions, and answers are welcome. Note that specific dates are unavailable beyond those mentioned here.

How did we get here?

Past

Kontrol MK1 (2014)

This was designed to:

  • Speed up your creative flow with unified browsing of/seamlessly integrated control over your entire Komplete library.
  • Expand your creative possibilities with Play Assistance.

To realize this vision, we introduced:

  • The Native Kontrol Standard (NKS) SDK, powering the automatic hardware integration. 
  • Komplete Kontrol software, acting as the librarian of your content and the brains of the automatic hardware integration. 

We improved the capabilities over time, creating a more equitable music making experience for all with Accessibility features, and opening NKS to 3rd parties.

Kontrol MK2 (2016)

This included both hardware and software upgrades:

  • Exponentially more NKS compatible instruments/effects.
  • Enhanced browsing via Audio Previews for NKS compatible instruments.
  • Deeper DAW control (Undo, Redo, Quantize, etc).
  • Introduced a Maschine integration for both transport and creative control.
  • Two colour screens for more immersive on-device display overall.

The Kontrol community grew exponentially larger, with which came some user requests and usability themes, most notably:

User Requests

  • Wanting capabilities (e.g. Play Assist) to be on-device (software agnostic).
  • Wanting Komplete Kontrol to modernize (visual features like HiDPI and Resizing).
  • A general frustration at the slow cadence of updates to Kontrol.

Usability themes

  • 2/3rds of the content loaded in Komplete Kontrol was Kontakt. Those users often asked that the integration be made available directly in Kontakt instead.
  • The Maschine integration –beloved by those who used it– was rarely used en masse and unwieldy to maintain. The (exponentially larger audience of) Kontrol-only users would often express confusion at the seemingly “broken” or “non functional” buttons. 
  • The seamless integration NKS offered was good, but could be greater. Not every parameter is logically controlled by a continuous rotary encoder, for example. Endless page scrolling also left some to be desired.

A wholesale modernization was needed, to iterate on this large volume of user search and feedback, and set us up for a next generation of hardware devices (yes, this plural is intentional). 

Kontrol MK3 (2023)

The first product on this new tech stack, it added on-device processing capabilities, and allows us to build and iterate on many of the ongoing feature requests, but at launch included:

  • A focussed set of high quality hardware design improvements (materials, controls, screens, etc).
  • Some usability improvements, such as:
  • Direct Connection to Kontakt 7, as requested
  • NKS2, a much improved parameter integration with new iconography and navigation for better ease of use.
  • Polyphonic Aftertouch, kickstarting an ongoing story of Expressive Input.

Meanwhile, the software transitioned from (tech talk alert) a static UI built mostly of bitmaps to a dynamically resizable UI built on the Qt framework, allowing us to ship resizing and HiDPI. Of course, any major step forward is not without cost. An explicit focus on what to prioritize also creates an implicit focus on what not to do. The most controversial examples were:

  • Maschine integration. Since very few users used this and it was confusing to everyone else, it wasn’t something we were willing to prioritize at the expense of other features. Basic Transport integration may return at some point, but not to the prior depth.
  • MIDI Templates. Only a minority of existing users used custom templates, so we deprioritized the capability to a post-launch update and focussed on the main features users asked for (see above). This was particularly frustrating to power users, and we hope to have it reintroduced soon (see below). 
  • Browser Property Editing and Drag+Drop were not widely used, and remains available in Komplete Kontrol 2.9, so this too was deprioritized to a post-launch update.
  • Kontrol MK1 support was frozen as of Komplete Kontrol 2.9.6 due to incompatible and outdated frameworks. 

Though the launch was well received and widely adopted overall, for users of the above, understanding why a decision was made is not the same thing as finding it palatable, and nor should it be. Please know that my intent in sharing the roadmap update here is not to re-litigate the past, but to build for the future.

Since the initial launch, we’ve continued to iterate, adding new features and stability improvements more than once a month via a total of 7 software and 2 firmware updates since October 1st 2023. This is a much faster cadence than ever before. The biggest new post-launch feature was Browser resizing. The biggest stability fixes were twofold: a catastrophic Windows S88 driver issue, and a rare but insidious firmware bricking issue. Though still a small minority, those issues affected hundreds of customers and were incredibly frustrating for all - as seen on the forums.

Of course you all wish to see more. Hence…

Present (Q1 2024)

Where are we now, in Q1 2024? We had originally intended to deliver the following by the end of the quarter, and in this order of priority:

  1. Ship official macOS Sonoma support
  2. Deliver three major Kontrol S MK3 on-device features to beta:
    1. MIDI Templates
    2. Accessibility
    3. Play Assist 
  3. Ship two minor (but major to affected users!) browser improvements:
    1. Property Editing
    2. Drag+Drop

It’s early March, and the teams have made excellent progress considering the trials and tribulations life threw our way. Some unexpected bugs slowed us down, albeit the silver lining was the team’s quick response to shipping fixes. Absence due to winter sickness also hit hard.

  1. macOS Sonoma support 
    1. Komplete Kontrol is in beta, and is planned to ship in March, barring unforeseen bugs.
    2. Kontrol S MK3 is held up by a bug on Apple’s side that is being addressed by them. I’ll share more as I have it.
  2. Deliver three major Kontrol S MK3 on-device features to beta:
    1. MIDI Templates: likely to hit beta in April
  1. Play Assist: likely to hit beta later in Q2
  2. Ship two minor (but major to affected users!) browser improvements:
    1. Drag+Drop: this was temporarily paused as some higher priority topics emerged for the Browser team. I’ll share more once it’s back in active development. 
    2. Property Editing: this is done, internally, with some kinks to work out before shipping
  3. Accessibility: likely to hit beta in April

    We also took on a number of emergent issues and have a long list of small but impactful improvements coming soon, such as font size improvements, pedal configuration improvements, and so on. Here are some assorted screenshots of what's coming.

    This shows MIDI Template Zone Editing:

    We have some recall bugs to fix and some user experience improvements coming to the pedal configuration process:

    Future (2024+)

    Once the above have shipped, I imagine there are still questions about what else will happen, and by when. Although I can’t talk about everything we have planned in a public forum, I can share at least some of the things likely to bump up the backlog next. The topics of interest include:

    Q2 / Q3 2024

    • A more powerful production experience, with deeper DAW integrations. We’d love to improve the DAW integrations beyond basic transport functions, and improve the way we interface with stock Browsers, Instruments and Channel-strips in general.
    • Increasing the immersion, with better visualizations on Kontrol S MK3. Today, each product loads a static banner image. Tomorrow, each product should have more control over what imagery is shown when, rather than one size fits all. 
    • Greater expressive potential, going beyond Polyphonic Aftertouch and utilizing the full power of the Kontrol S MK3 hardware.
    • Expanding the MIDI 2 implementation on Kontrol S MK3. Yes, this is limited until DAWs and content manufacturers implement MIDI 2 more widely and robustly. But I expect this to expand greatly, since MIDI 2 has some compelling capabilities. 

    Q4 2024

    • ?!?! There are some larger announcements planned for this time of year. But that’s as much as I can say for now.

    That’s all I had, let’s talk! What do you think? What would you like to hear more about? What would you advocate for or against?

    Kind Regards,

    Matt

    Appendix:

    The Team(s)

    Since I made reference to some topics living with various teams, and some here have asked their own questions about it, I thought it might interest the community to know how we approach things, internally. Within the division, we are several small but mighty teams working together, each hyper focussed on one aspect of the products.

    • Team working on the desktop software
      • This includes Komplete Kontrol, Maschine and the NKS SDK.
    • Team working on the on-device software
      • This includes Kontrol S MK3 and Maschine+.
    • Team working on the device firmware and hardware
      • This includes Kontrol and Maschine.

    As you see, we work simultaneously on Kontrol and Maschine. You’ve seen some progress on the former, and will see some progress on the latter before too much longer. Things are happening! We also collaborate directly with several more teams throughout the company:

    • There is a team working on Discovery
      • This includes the Browser, which products like Komplete Kontrol and Kontrol S MK3 use.
    • There is a team working on the Kontakt Builder Experience
      • This includes implementing NKS in KSP, the Kontakt Script Processor that instruments are built with.
    • There is a team working on Kontakt’s end user experience
      • This includes implementing the Direct Connection API built by the on-device team for Kontrol S MK3.

    And of course, our colleagues responsible for building the instruments and FX, with whom we collaborate on continually improving the NKS experience. 

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Comments

  • PoorFellow
    PoorFellow Moderator Posts: 3,762 mod
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    @Matthew_NI , thank you very much for this great information update. 👨‍💻

    I find this a very fitting opportunity to tell you that most often when I read something written by you then I can not help thinking that either you are very well educated or you got some excellent help writing your material for you. And the above is no exception ! It's very well composed and written ! 🙂👍️

  • Uwe303
    Uwe303 Moderator Posts: 3,395 mod
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    Thanks for the insight - appreciate it.

  • Simchris
    Simchris Member Posts: 306 Pro
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    Thanks for this update :) Having just purchased both S88mk3 and S61mk3 to retire older models, this is top of mind and was here looking for just this "state of the state" info. :)

  • Vagus
    Vagus Member Posts: 428 Guru
    edited March 4
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    @Matthew_NI Firstly, thank you for the detail - this has been something missing for so long, and it's great to see open dialogue, and a roadmap. Kudos to all the teams involved.

    My tuppence would be simply that the best way to test some of these beta features and get essential feedback, is to invite some of the power users to the beta - those with MK3 for hardware/software testing, and those with MK2, for compatibility testing. I know a couple of users who are on the KK beta, but are not interested in taking part, while some (including me) would be more than happy to help.

    I realise power users are a small subset, but they're the more vocal on this forum, and engaging those people is still important, in my opinion.

    Additionally, please don't release the updates during GDC . Every year I read about a software update while I'm away doing work things in San Francisco (18th-22nd March). I have to wait to get back to the UK before updating and I'm the worst at patience.

    That said, if you or any of the team are at GDC, let me know - it would be great to grab a coffee or a beer for the Liverpool game.

    I would also love to hear more about this:

    • Greater expressive potential, going beyond Polyphonic Aftertouch and utilizing the full power of the Kontrol S MK3 hardware.

    [insert EmperorPalpatine.gif]

    P.S. +10 points for the pedal fixes.

  • Chilled
    Chilled Member Posts: 22 Member
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    Nice. One question: when will "Sub Banks" be available again? This is quite important when dealing with a large number of add-on banks.

  • nightjar
    nightjar Member Posts: 1,307 Guru
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    @Matthew_NI .... Thanks for the status report +

    The deeper DAW integration sounds like the big news to me.

    K-MK3 hardware being able to easily control Logic's built-in instruments & FX would be a fantastic thing.

    Nektar has just recently accomplished some of this with the Panorama C-12... I am very tempted to buy one.

    But if this is gonna happen on my already purchased K-MK3, I shall resist.

    Any hints on the initial DAW's being developed for?

  • oobe79
    oobe79 Member Posts: 106 Advisor
    edited March 5
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    When will NI provide seamless integration for Reaktor ensembles and Battery in the Kontrol MK3 S series keyboards, like it does for Kontakt.

  • Matthew_NI
    Matthew_NI Product Team Posts: 988 mod
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    This is a very fair question!

    Since it's more detailed than the above roadmap would allow, I'll create a dedicated thread on that topic, so we can be definitive about what capabilities didn't migrate, whether they will or not, and if so, when(ish).

    Stay tuned!

  • Matthew_NI
    Matthew_NI Product Team Posts: 988 mod
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    KK2 -> KK3 migration scenarios

    This deserves a dedicated knowledge-base article. I'll add that to our to-do list and report back once it goes live.

    Cubase stability

    We fixed the most significant one in a recent update (thanks for your help with that) and are tracking the other major issue at the moment.

    Feature requests - what?

    In terms of the Error Handling and Velocity feature requests, consider them noted. With Errors, we ourselves don't always know why something has gone wrong, but we could better inform users when we do. With Velocity, I'd rather call this a request for more Velocity Calibration, as our one-size-fits-all approach appears to work for many, but indeed, every player is different. This would be a good function to offer.

    Feature requests - process?

    I've shared a high level roadmap. We also have a detailed backlog, tracking many ongoing improvements. This was just to detailed to share in this format. But what happens to requests such as yours? Do they go into a black hole? I've noticed that users sometimes feel as if they do. So I want to improve that for us all, as well.

    Here's the process: I add them to our backlog, whereupon they remain open, until they're periodically refined. This means they've been discussed, designed, assigned a priority of High/Medium/Low and are ready to implement if we decide to do so.

    I'll have a think about if there's an appropriate way to at least share some of the more detailed backlog. For Maschine, they've recently used the forum to expose some ways of showing, and allowing input/voting on this.

  • Matthew_NI
    Matthew_NI Product Team Posts: 988 mod
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    You wanted to hear more about what greater expressive potential might mean.

    I don't want to give the full game away, but at least one example I can outline that will come as no surprise:

    • Kontrol S MK1 had Touch-strip physics models: Standard/Spring/Bouncing Ball/Tempo/Stepped, with adjustable Friction, Gravity, Walls, Strength, and so on. This allowed for really fun interactions when modulating parameters via the Touch-strip.
    • Why exactly Kontrol S MK2 dropped support for these, I'm not sure.
    • Bringing them back to Kontrol S MK3 would be a lot of fun. Hence it's on the list for later this year. Lists can and do change, but that's the best current thinking.
  • Matthew_NI
    Matthew_NI Product Team Posts: 988 mod
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    @Vocalpoint was asking after an overall KK 2.9 vs KK 3.0 communication, and I said I'd set up a dedicated thread. I'll be sure to roll this in to that communication. Stay tuned!

  • Matthew_NI
    Matthew_NI Product Team Posts: 988 mod
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