Friday, August 21, 2009

Digital music players

I overheard a conversation the other day that baffled me. The bafflement comes from my own egocentric reality where I assume everybody has a certain level of knowledge. As I no doubt have missed the point on this sort of thing before I thought I should write a little bit on it.

The confusion was two people talking about portable music players. One person was showing off their new player, a Microsoft Zune. The other person said "Ugh. You should have bought an iPod instead. They're much cooler", to which the reply was "I wanted something that works with Windows - I don't have a Mac."

Apparently the Apple marketing machine has not achieved full penetration.

This was followed on by "I think that you CAN use it with Windows, but you have to use iTunes for it to work", which elicited "I don't want to have to buy all my music through their store, and never be able to play the music anywhere else."

Again, maybe a couple of short commercials from Apple to update the masses would help.

I won't go into intense detail, but basically any digital music player will play MP3 files, the general current standard for digital audio. This includes the iPod. Apple prefers the AAC format which up until recently was encumbered with digital rights management (DRM) that did in fact lock the song to your account. Now, however, most of the music in the iTunes store is DRM-free. That said, you can get music from elsewhere into your iPod. The most important one which seemed to escape the people having the conversation is that you can rip the audio from your regular CD and put it onto your iPod.

Also, you can purchase or acquire MP3 files from any other source and put them into your iTunes library.

Disclosure: I myself have an iPod, which was about the fourth digital music player that I bought. I liked the other players just as much when they were playing music (I am not an audiophile and found the quality to be more or less equal) but where the iPod was clearly superior was the user interface and the client software. I use my iPod for also listening to podcasts (essentially recorded radio shows) and being able to easily organize all my audio content was worth it for me to move to an iPod. Your mileage may vary.

So be sure to be clear on what it is you want from a digital audio player, given your preferred operating system and method of acquiring music. You can then make a clear decision based on your own needs instead of being herded into one camp or another. Marketing seeks to push you into a decision based on irrational feelings. See past them and decide based on your actual needs.

No comments: