On the ‘Apple Matters’ blog today Chris Howard discusses the success of the iPod and the decline of the physical media that music is delivered on. Although this is significant I think that Apple has done more and less to drive this trend.
As Chris states they were not the first to launch a flash or hard drive based music player. Around five years ago I have mixed memories of shelling out AUD$700 or AUD$800 for a Creative Nomad 6GB Jukebox hard drive based player. This ‘little’ baby was basically a 3.5in hard drive repackaged into a portable CD player form factor.
From a technical perspective this gave me everything that the iPod Mini provides. This was happening during Napsters heyday so there was no shortage of easily (if not legally) obtained music, it supported playlists that could be managed via the device and on the synchronised PC. But it never really took off. Why?
- It was still quite big and bulky. Bulkier than even the CD players of the day.
- The interface was awkward and required concentration to navigate through.
- The process for loading up songs and managing playlists was a learning experience.
These are exactly the areas that Apple have addressed with the iPod, in all it’s incarnations to date. They created a pocket sized device, with a simple tactile user interface and developed software that for both Mac and PC that was easy to use.
On top of all of this, Apple then made it cool to geeks and non-geeks alike. With fun iconic advertising and the white headphone wires they made their devices visible even when they were stuffed in the over sized fashion jeans pockets of their owners.
So where to from here? Well with digital formats the device IS the media. It is the thing that you carry with you. What is changing is how you use it and what you put on it. iTunes is influencing this with their track by track downloads. Podcasting has the potential to listening habits by consuming peoples listening time with non record label content.
The big step in bringing portable digital music to the masses has been made by Apple and I thank them for it. The next battle however is for the time you spend listening to it. Do you just randomly shuffle you 60GB of music files? You may never listen to the same track twice! I have practically left the CD loaded music behind, as I listen to a backing up stream of podcast content.
So what will you be listening to today?