Monday, April 19, 2010

No MicroSD card. Only iTunes to sync to! Why Apple, why?

I reader of my previous blog post asked me to comment on the "MicroSD slot and moving away from iTunes syncronization for all media".

I didn't think I would have much to say about it, but it turned out there is a lot...I mean a lot. I hope I can make it short.

Let's consider for instance the ultimate music player if technology was not a limitation. Let dream of the ultimate music device and see if MiroSD cards and Syncing options are there to be found!

I will start with something I believe with to absolutely true about Apple and the future of it music players.

If Apple could make a music player that had no screen, ports or even physical controls of any kind, and still play the music you wanted to hear the moment you heard it played already, they would. And they are trying...

What does that say about the company, about Steve Jobs? It says that the only thing he considers of importance is the actual listening of the sound. The buttons are not important, the headphones are not important, even the artwork is a distraction and god forbid you mention the storage capacity. Its all about listening to the right music at the right emotional state.

How can Apple possibly create a player that does that. There are two sides to the question. A hardware and a software one. I will give you a hint for each: Software is kind of Pandora style but taking much more variables such as time of day, calendar appointments, speed of movement, acceleration, hearth rate, temperature, background sound. All wrapped up in one super intelligent Genius. Now that you have seen the software part, having to guess the hardware it easy: Wireless connection, GPS, accelerometer, heart monitor, thermometer, microphone and so on. There player might consist of more than one device, some of which will be embedded in the clothing and the shoes. The part that goes into your ear might be less visible than a in-ear headphone bud.

Now, where in this futuristic picture do you see any kind of optional storage or syncing? You don't and here is why.

The most fundamental mistake that people assume when it come to music is that people want to be able to make a choice. Any kind of choice. Choice about whether to have MicroSD card or not, choice to have a red or a green colored player, choice to listen to the Beatles or Queen. I have come to believe to the bottom of my heart that it is in fact quite the opposite. People do now want to chose, they do not want to decide, do or even look when it comes to music. They just want to listen. That is the secret behind the long existence of radio, because someone else decides it for you. It's convenient. Pandora has taken things one step further. It learns from your listening preferences and make you a personalized radio station. While there is indeed an initial choice, the whole point of services like that are to deliver the music you like without you having to make the choice every time.

Now, when you grasp this concept you start to wander, if even choosing the music I play is not something I want to do, why would I even bother to decide on where to store it or what program it will sync with. Why do even things like storage and syncing exist? Why would I have a limit on the music I can cary with me? Do I care if I actually carry the music with me, it I can here it anytime I want?

When one asks important questions like that, it becomes obvious that beyond iTunes, it is not another syncing program. That will only bring limited conform to the people that lie to themselves about the choice question. Beyond iTunes is CloudTunes or just iTunes. Really just iTunes. No interface, no syncing. It all there connected to your phone at all time. You may pay some initial fee to get started but its all there available to you and to your smart software to decide on the next song.

And while Apple is expected to deliver this CloudTunes still, the question of MicroSD cards or the removable storage option has already been decided and the CloudTunes will just put the finishing nail on it. In fact, on the quest for the ultimate iPod, Apple removed this choice very early....with the very first iPod, back in 2001. One has to be insane to think Apple will introduce it back. Quite the opposite... they are planing to sacrifice even more things. Just look at the iPod Shuffle and how that nicely sits on the path to the ultimate music player.

Now, for some the above thoughts may be all pie in the sky type of stuff, so here are some more of todays reasons for not using MicroSD cards and different sync methods or programs.

Let's see how one uses removable storage today. You plug it into you computer, you load it manually with music and then you plug it into your device expecting it to recognize everything. There are several problems with this scenario.
  • you lose time for loading the stuff on your card
  • you can add a song with bad quality, broken file or missing tag
  • you are dealing with folder and hierarchal structure, which no user should be doing
  • the date will likely contain no information about which song was played
  • unless you use a special software to structure the content on the card, you may have to find the music the old fashion Winamp way.
  • how do you know which content is purchased from you, and which is not?
There are many other reasons against MicroSD cards, ranging from minor one, such as "another thing to loose" to why not just build it into the device, seal the whole and save on manufacturing cost.

The only practical use from flash cards is perhaps to transfer your pictures from a camera to the iPhone via an 30 pin dock connector/SD-card adapter.

Regarding the issue of wireless syncing. It is practical for some services like contacts but not for media file. They are too big file inability for devices to link to each other without a common WiFi router is also an issue. As long as I have a need to charge my device I have no problem docking it to the computer for syncing too. If I had to do full wireless syncing, I would have had even bigger battery issues.

So while wireless streaming makes sense, wireless downloading of files does not. We will move beyond the desktop iTunes, when all its content goes online, when the bandwidth is sufficient and when the right business model present itself.

Now, having exceeded my own expectations and goals, I will shut up.

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