Keeping iPod at the Center

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Date: Monday, August 2nd, 2004, 18:09
Category: Archive

The introduction of the Compact Disc was the start of the consumer digital music revolution, but there was a lull. Why have things gotten fired up again with the advent of the iPod? I suspect it has to do with organization and distribution. The problem of getting a collection of CD’s organized is hardly different from a shelf full of LP’s or even the 78’s stored under the old Victrola. Read More…


The introduction of the Compact Disc was the start of the consumer digital music revolution, but there was a lull. Why have things gotten fired up again with the advent of the iPod? I suspect it has to do with organization and distribution. The problem of getting a collection of CD’s organized is hardly different from a shelf full of LP’s or even the 78’s stored under the old Victrola. Sure, CD changers can handle hundreds of them and MP3 encoded CD’s can increase the density of storage, but the fundamental change is the ability to organize and manage all of your music with iTunes and carry all of your music in a tiny receptacle called iPod. The automatic cataloging of songs, ability to create playlists, download album art and the like helps people to get their arms around their music. Forget about debating the fidelity of various compression schemes.
Keeping the iPod at the center of all this is clearly the way for Apple to ride the wave of the latest digital music revolution. The automobile is the next logical step, and Alpine is about to leapfrog the BMW announcement. Getting music into the car never worked with LP’s and reel to reel tape. It was the horrible 8-Track and eventually the development of the recordable stereo audio cassette that got things going. The early strategy was simple, buy CD’s and then make cassettes for the car. Until the advent of recordable, CDR’s this was the Digital to Analog Rights Management scheme that made the most financial sense. Now that people have been ripping and burning their way into fair use of their music, how can you improve on the CD changer in the trunk or dash? Compressed music on a hard drive seems to be the answer and rather than a dedicated drive in the car, what better than an iPod that can be charged and controlled by the car stereo. If Apple can become the de facto standard in the car, they have portable music sewn up.
Distribution: Distribution evolved into the US$15 CD. You want music, you buy an album for US$15. Enter Napster. You want a song, you download it for free. You ignore your obligations under the copyright laws and share their music as if it were yours. Apple has made the best stab at a new distribution system via the Internet. It has problems. It is in its infancy. Who knows how things will shake out.
Home Entertainment: This is the next big battleground. Apple has come out with AirPort Express. Pretty cool…. for a geek! I can sit at my home entertainment center and control my computer in the other room with my Bluetooth phone and listen on my stereo. I might as well bite the head off live reptiles or poultry. I still think Apple needs to create a media center that is a set top box using the media room display as the control center for a home entertainment system. Short of that, somebody needs to make a WiFi version of the iTrip. That way, someone could sit with their iPod and play music through AirPort Express as if it were their earbuds. Simple, easy to use and the iPod stays at the center of the digital hub, for music anyhow. An Apple media center could bring in the power of iMovie, iDVD and iPhoto. This could be a HUGE revolution in home entertainment. It is the next big thing and Apple needs to beat Microsoft to the punch. Portable Video is NOT the next big thing and that seems to be where Microsoft is headed. Digital Hub, I guess. I would like to think it is really about putting your arms around something that entertains you and feeling connected.

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