Less is More

Less is More

Summary: With all due respect to Marc Canter, thank god for Apple. As Microsoft's DRMForSure juggernaut rolled out of Vegas with a full head of cartel-fired steam, even phone guru Russell Beattie was ready to bow before Bill Gates and that personal video device vibrating in his pocket.

With all due respect to Marc Canter, thank god for Apple. As Microsoft's DRMForSure juggernaut rolled out of Vegas with a full head of cartel-fired steam, even phone guru Russell Beattie was ready to bow before Bill Gates and that personal video device vibrating in his pocket. Though Bill's message was marginally diluted by some demo misfires in his CESdex keynote, the gathering force of Media Center extenders, Scoble's Smartphone, and the tantalizing prospect of being able to watch the West Wing in letterbox format on a one-inch screen at 50,000 feet all conspired to create a surprisingly vivid re-innovation of Steve Jobs' patented reality distortion field.

With all due respect to Robert Scoble, thank god for Apple. When Steve strolled out to center stage with the Mini, he got more applause for the box than anything Bill showed Conan O'Brien. Actually, there was a collective gasp over the size of the box, as it drove home the nuanced multi-threaded message of the Apple play: less is more. The ThinkSecret leaks didn't take the power out of the punchline--they amplified it.

With all due respect to Dan Gillmor, thank god for Apple. They don't call them trade secrets for nothing. Personally, I think they sued for the same reasons Gates called us communists: to protect their business model. Thank god for the EFF, too. Personally, I think the gasp in the Moscone Center should be used as Defense Exhibit A for the fact that no secrets were exposed.

The biggest secret of all was the word not spoken in either Vegas or San Francisco: podcasting. Nowhere to be seen was the rumored Firewire audio breakout box, the reported subject of several subpoenas issued in December. But add up the rest of the announcements, most shipping by the end of the month, and you may notice that Apple has restructured itself around the iPod platform.

1. The iPod Shuffle

Though most of us boomers can't fathom the idea that "life is random" is a feature, the Shuffle's secret sauce is its Playlist mode, turned off by default. Attention: iPodder developers--if you develop SmartPlaylist functionality in your aggregators, you can use attention and other explicit metadata to program iTunes to download, sort, and sequence podcasts while you sleep. Remember, the iPod is the delivery system, the data cache at the end of the pipeline. Of course, if some smart 3rd-party vendor adds a microphone that clips onto the Shuffle, it's a data recorder hanging around your neck.

2. The Mini

For podcasters, this is a $500 studio-in-a-box. GarageBand now supports multitrack recording (eight channels each with their own eq and effects) and the ability to create your own loops. Combine GarageBand with Smart Playlists and slice and dice your podcasts up into "songs" that you can sequence and, more importantly, pull "quotes" for inclusion in other podcasts. Once again, remember that the iPod is the endpoint of the production environment. The Mini is the studio, the mastering lab, where you cut the virtual grooves between the tracks of these next-generation podcasts.

3. "Tiger"

The next version of OS/X will load just fine on the Mini, too. It comes with Automator, which, if hooked up to GarageBand, would provide an automated way to refactor existing long-form podcasts into this new track model. Automator could also build consoles to automate real-time, radio-style production with multiple audio inputs, taking advantage of Tiger's enhanced ability to handle multiple virtual audio devices.

4. iWork and iLife

Keynote, Pages, and iMovie are morphing into a podcast-to-video porting environment. Use Automator consoles to load in podcast segments and annotate them with links, iPhoto transitions, and attention-influenced intelligent caching of related pod- and Mini-casts, and you're well on your way to a read/write version of the RSS-powered multimedia Web. While DRMForSure coddles the cartel, the iPod Platform plays to the customers in the seats.

With all due respect to Bill Gates, thank god for Apple. If Apple didn't exist, Bill, you'd have to invent them. Perhaps you did. It's the real Bill and Steve Show. Two peas in a Pod, that's for sure.

Topic: Apple

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  • Perfect

    Great article...couldn't agree more...spot on.
    Did my one and only audioBlog experiment using garage band,
    (music/voice). I can easily pick out any sentence/segment and
    reuse it. The music intro/middle/end are also in separate tracks
    for reuse.
    If you are able to do everything in (or fed in) Garageband, you
    have it made...just like you're pointing out :-)
  • Okay ...

    Aside from the fact that God is a proper noun and thus the 'g' should be upper case, I agree with the article ... BUT, Apple is still missing the point.

    Jobs doesn't need to WOW the converted. Jobs likes to preach to the choir but what Apple really needs to do is to entice 'the unchurched' among us -- those who have never owned a Macintosh -- or any other Apple product.

    If Apple is to have any hope of improving its marketshare in the PC space, they need a one-stop solution that the typcial Wal-Mart shopper will see on the shelf and want. It has to cost about the same as the heavily discounted Windows (or Linux, or JDS) computer sitting on the shelf next to it. And, it must meet, or eceed the specs on that Windows box.

    Even in the enterprise, where larger profit margins and premium prices often prevail, the Macintosh does not currently compete with Windows. If Apple wants this business, it must be willing to to be cost-competitive.

    Yes, in addition to the Macintosh faithful, the Mac mini will attract those discrungtled Windows users who will pay a premium for what they want -- whatever they perceive that to be.

    Yes, the Mac mini will even attract some of the Windows faithful -- mainly because many of them appreciate the technical superiority of the Apple Macintosh but cannot justify the price of an entire entry-level Macintosh system (let alone a feature-for-feature "equivalent" to their current Windows system.)

    The Mac mini may even convert some of the hard core Windows users among us -- but that isn't enough!

    With an entry-level keyboard, mouse, and CRT monitor, the Mac mini comes in at $746 -- just $53 below the eMac, and a full $247 above a complete entry-level Dell/Windows System.

    Since it's debut, in 1984, the Macintosh has always offered superior usability but it has always commanded a premium price. Apple has reached a crossroads and must decide if it wants to forever be in a niche market or if it wants to compete head-to-head with Microsoft.
    M Wagner
  • Trade secrets?

    Then why isn't it a secret anymore, even through the mouths at Apple?

    Apple can certainly sue over violations of confidentiality contracts they might have, but calling leaks about future product announcements 'trade secrets' is laughable. Trade secrets are supposed kept secret, period, not to be divulged when the marketing department says it's time. Instead, this sort of litigation makes them look like nimrods.

    Now that Apple is basking in its own glory, all eyes now are naturally locked on its every action and rumor. They should revel in it, even turn it to their advantage, and stop the nonsense with these dumb lawsuits.
  • I'd take it a touch further...

    It's not just about small, or cheap. It's about elegant. That's the
    signature or Steve Job's Apple. Always has been.

    With this, iLife, iWork, and the current and next release of OS X
    being so, so awesome, maybe the worm will finally turn. Now all
    we need to have a complete publishing suite from Apple for
    every media type, is a web publishing tool, maybe a .mac based
    wiki/blog tool, similar to Ecto.

    But really, Apple is changing everything. My blog goes a little
    deeper, still, at <a href="http://www.richoid.com/blog.html">
    richoid.com</a>. I think we should reconsider education in the
    context of the radical change in communication that is
    happening right now, as well as the increasing reliance (and
    paucity) of citizen's knowledge of basic physical laws.