Why I don’t own an iPod and how Playstation 3 will destroy the Earth

Note: This article originally ran February 8, 2006. I’m re-posting it here in light of Apple’s recent iPhone announcement. My arguments still hold.


Today Apple introduced a new iPod nano and cut prices on older models, bringing the 512-megabyte version down to $69 and the 1GB model was discounted to $99.

It may sound like I’m sort of Luddite, but I’m probably the last person on this planet to consider owning an iPod. I realize of course there’s an entire generation of people who now have those white ear buds practially sugically attached to their ears, but I haven’t bought into the iPod for a whole number of reasons.

First and foremost, I’m a busy guy and I don’t have a hell of a lot of time to sit on iTunes and download music. Don’t get me wrong, I love listening to music, but most of the stuff I like is from two previous generations past (60’s and 70’s hard rock, funk and disco, with some ’80s and early ’90s alternative) and a mix of jazz and classical, so a lot of the new crap out there is totally lost on me. I also have no huge interest in converting CD collections over to the proprietary formats the iPod uses — I’m perfectly happy listening to my Sirius satellite radio in my car and letting them do the work of providing me stuff to listen to. In my honest opinion, iTunes is a badly architected peice of junk, its bloated and crash-prone, especially on the Windows platform. If you don’t own a Mac, you’re pretty much a second class citizen with an iPod. I have iTunes installed because i’ve been checking out various podcasts on my PC, but I much prefer the more open software packages like Juice Receiver for that sort of thing. Juice is a really cool package because its Open Source and multi platform (it runs on Mac, Windows, as well as Linux) and ideally suited for podcast downloading because its tied into all the 3rd party podcast directory services.

If I was going to own a digital music player I’d want something that was totally open and non-proprietary, but nobody’s cornered the market on that yet because all the Linux-based devices that exist right now are clunky and are un-sexy — the iPod has huge traction because it is sexy looking and has a nice industrial design. Truthfully, what I’d like to see is some giant like CISCO, with their consumer electronics subsidiary Linksys along with their set-top box division Scientific Atlanta (who they also purchased this year) create some sort of sexy mass-market consumer-brand digital convergence device that had these sort of specs:

  • Built in Wi-Fi peer to peer mesh networking that would allow you to trade songs and videos and other files with people wirelessly, directly access the Internet and download music, videos and software without the use of a PC.
  • A nice screen like the PSP so you can play Internet-aware multiplayer games and watch videos
  • 40GB hard disk with Secure Digital slot
  • 1024×768 SVGA full motion digital video camera on swivel mount (2MP or better) with integrated stereo microphone, high quality speaker and USB 2.0 connector
  • High capacity lithium-ion rechargeable, removable battery pack.
  • High-speed 4G cellular for doing your phone calls, digital teleconferencing (with the built in camera) and data service when you aren’t within Wi-Fi range, and VOIP integration like a built in Skype or Google chat client.
  • An Open API developer toolset using open source components so anyone can write applications for it
  • A great end-user interface that ran on Mac, PC, and Linux desktops
  • A sleek, innovative industrial design that would smash the hell out of proprietary units like the iPod.
  • Sounds nuts? When you have the resources like a CISCO who can design and mass produce their own microprocessors and chipsets and can leverage all sorts of relationships with other companies like Microsoft and Intel, anything is possible. I believe that something like this can be produced for less than $500 and competitive with anything Apple puts out.

    Speaking of cool customized microprocessors, IBM announced today that it would be adopting the Cell Processor for use in defense, medical imagery and other high-performance computing systems. The Cell is a high performance chip that is set to be the core of the Sony Playstation 3 video game system — its incredibly low cost, but because its highly specialized to do certain kinds of number crunching and application tasks, its faster than general purpose chips like the Intel Pentium or the PowerPC G5. What this means is that once the Cell and its successors are incorporated into general purpose computing systems as well as embedded systems, we’re going to see huge leaps in performance at much more higher economies of scale. Once they can solve the heat problems, think about small consumer devices with supercomputing-level capabilities, people.

    Of course, if you subscribe to the Terminator 3 theory of technological evolution, breakthoughs like the Cell Processor might lead to intelligent machines that will take over the earth. My guess it that it won’t be the machines themselves though — it will be a result of the 14-year olds hooking their Playstation 3’s into the defense grid. Ha!

13 Responses to Why I don’t own an iPod and how Playstation 3 will destroy the Earth

  1. =R= says:

    iPods are, no doubt, annoyingly dumbed down and intentionally restrictive but still, you’re depriving yourself of great pleasure by not having one or a similar unit.

    Imagine having all your tunes with you wherever you go . . . home, office, vehicle, vacation. You never have to take cd’s with you — or decide which ones you’re bringing. You can bring them all — and they fit in your shirt pocket! And with Anapod (3rd party) software, the proprietary issues are essentially dissolved. I even have a hard-wired connection in my car for my iPod and it’s wonderful.

    My advice, Jason . . . buy yourself a cheaper model, spend $25 on Anapod (or just buy a PC-based equivalent unit) and experience what you’ve been missing. The only real drag is transfering the music onto your computer but you only have to do it once and even for me (I have about 1300 cds) I transfered a few a day until I had everything I wanted on my computer. And still, my iPod is only about 30% full.

    As for iTunes, I don’t plan on ever buying music there. At 0.99 per tune, it’s not an economical option in the least.

  2. Ivonne says:

    Great post! I just found your blog via The Accidental Hedonist. Your viewpoints are most refreshing.

  3. Andrew says:

    “I also have no huge interest in converting CD collections over to the proprietary formats the iPod uses ”

    You mean MP3? Not particularly proprietary since it is the lingua franca of digital music.

    Only when you download music from Apple’s iTunes Music Store do you deal with a proprietary format. The unprotected AAC format is also non-proprietary and can be played on a number of non-iPod devices, but that number is smaller than the number of devices that will play MP3. Most iPod users never purchase a song from the iTunes store.

  4. I don’t have as much a problem with the m4u format iTunes uses rather than the totally proprietary metadata system the iPod internally uses. You can’t just use it as a USB storage device and drag and drop music files in there, you need to interface with the internal iTunes database using iTunes to get everything to index. With more open players like the iRiver and the Sony Digital Walkman, the Archos and the Toshiba Gigabeat you don’t have to deal with that, you can just dump your files on them and the unit is capable of self indexing. I dont want to be locked into using Apple’s sync software to upload music and video and photos.

  5. Maya says:

    Dude, your blog is awesome – but there’s no need to whine about ipods.

    I’ve got one. It’s fun, useful (it’s a flashdrive) and I’m able to put my friends’ electronic tracks on it. I’m also able to listen to the Talking Heads whenever I want.

    I don’t have time to sit and download anything from itunes either. But I’ve got time to write a blog ABOUT not downloading from itunes, just like you do.

    Don’t get an ipod then. Just don’t fucking complain about it.

    Your blog still rules.

    Maya the lurker.

  6. I love the new iPhone. To me, the actual “phone” feature is the least compelling feature – and one I really could care less about.

    It looks like it has a full-fledged OSX install under the hood – not a crippled, dumbed down version. This is the device I’ve been waiting for. The hard drive sizes though suck.

  7. Tom says:

    I hate to say it but I like it. I got one (nano 2gb) for Christmas from my mother-in-law and it’s great. I already have an epic mp3 collection, mostly from my own CD’s ripped to mp3. You can put regular mp3’s on it and you don’t have to use iTunes. I use some other $20 applet that I downloaded and tried first and it rocks for ust getting stuff on and off the iPod. So far no crashes, great battery life, and an all around great experience. I like it so much that I wish it was the 8gb version.

    Great blog, BTW. I especially enjoyed the Kinchley’s review. Just had some for lunch and was looking them up on Google and found your review which I linked to from my pathetic little blog. Peace.

  8. Jon says:

    I don’t think Jason’s premise is that MP3 players suck, or to deny that many people have been perfectly happy with iPods as their MP3 player of choice. Or to debate the convenience or cool factor. But along with that convenience and coolness, iPods have always had a lot of thorns–ironically thorns which strike as much or more at the tinkerers and more tech savy than the people who simply pull the iPod out of the box and just strap it on. The hobbyists are more likely to have existing MP3 and AVI format video collections, so they are more likely to be annoyed by the need to convert. These people are also more likely to want to try and use the iPod with multiple PCs, or to be annoyed with the idea of synchronizing music collections instead of simply using their music device like an external hard drive.

    Yes, you can use the argument “then don’t buy one”, but this isn’t about telling people what to do or not do. Its a piece talking about his own reactions, as a certain KIND of person. Knowing more than most potential iPod users about concepts like “open standards”, being more likely to want to use it on multiple PCs and operating systems, having seen a greater quantity of similar devices using open standards but without Apple’s marketing muscle, he’s got a unique point of view about what Apple COULD have done under other circumstances, or what another company could do if given the opportunity.

    I suppose the Microsoft Zune might affect this formula now, but MS isn’t usually the place to look in any open standards discussion.

    And he’s right about how badly written the Windows implementation of the iPod software is. Its AGONIZING and has crashed, performed badly, or consistently locked up an iPod every time I’ve seen one used. And this gets back to the hardware engineering too. The locking problem is so bad there are sites up on the net devoted purely to instructing people how to break open their iPods (a fairly difficult process apparently, for which you may actually have to break plastic) so they can remove the batteries to get them unlocked.

    iPod is fine for a lot of people. Nobody’s debating that. Its what it could have been that’s the issue.

  9. Jon says:

    Interesting. I wonder if this clip is legit:

    iPhone interface: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BdkyEJxeW4U

    Also. apparently Jason’s invocation of Cisco in his article all those months ago is turning out to be a pretty interesting coincidence with recent news.

    Cisco sues Apple over name of iPhone: http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/business/technology/16430136.htm

  10. Randi says:

    I have no interest in an Ipod, but I do have an mp3 player. I enjoy that while I’m working out. I dont pay for my music, hopefully I wont be busted for that.

  11. r-sin says:

    I was never into the idea of I-Pod’s either. I just got one for christmas, I would never have bought one, and I love it. I have both a PC and a Mac, and it works solid on both, it actually works a bit faster on my PC. It increased the value of tons of CD’s that I bought over the years and haven’t listen to in a while, now I listen to them all, no more digging through piles of CD’s. You must not really be into music that much, but for a music lover, the I-Pod is the best. Your just looking for something to complain about and trying to sound smart, you don’t.

  12. […] 2006 when the first generation iPhone was announced and Android wasn’t even a blip on the radar, I wrote on my personal blog Off The Broiler that my ideal device would have the following characteristics, and would be fully doable using […]

  13. I think there is a massive convergence of all electrical goods taking place in the home right now. I don’t think you are going to have to rely on Cisco to deliver your dream Jason. Microsoft and Sony are already having a good crack at it already. All that’s needed but probably wont happen for some time is one of your points – ‘An Open API developer toolset using open source components so anyone can write applications for it. Can these large companies play nicely together, probably not. Do we wish they would, most definitely. A toast to our mutual dream Jason, cheers.

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