Sonos Announcement, A Rhapsody, an Apology, and I Wii

I'm thouroughly excited about the future for the first time since...maybe last week.
Written by Alan Graham, Contributor

I'm thouroughly excited about the future for the first time since...maybe last week. Stick with me here...I'm gonna wax on.

Today at CES,  Sonos announced support for a plethora of online music solutions (Napster, MTV Networks’ URGE, Yahoo! Music Unlimited, Zune Marketplace, etc.). While I've worked with Sonos in the past (a client of mine), I was a fanboy and owner since I first saw the product three Macworld's ago. My own home system includes three floors, four rooms, and two nifty Buffalo Technologies 300GB NAS drives (hiding in a utility closet).

Today's announcement comes on the heels of a previous announcement a few months ago where Sonos released support for Rhapsody without the need of a computer, right out of the box. All you need is an Internet connection.

What's quite amazing here is that we're starting to see more and more of a link between what happens in a traditional online world (requiring the need of a computer) and the devices we regularly use (sans computer). The line between what we generally view as the web/online world is becoming blurred and we are beginning to see an emergence of devices taking full advantage of that "connection" we've so long taken for granted with our computers. The computer as the "bridge" is starting to fade into the background. Whether it is music, video, or VOIP...things are changing fast.

Which leads me to an apology...

I'm Sorry

Here's my opportunity to apologize to Real Networks for not making a secret of the fact that I previously thought their music subscription service, Rhapsody, was the lamest idea since Insert Lame Idea Here. You see, I've traditionally had two major issues that annoyed me about Rhapsody.

  1. I've been spoiled by iPods and Sonos. With Sonos, I don't require a computer to interface or support my music collection around the house. No computer has had to be connected to my stereo for two years. Anywhere I want music, I have it...perfectly synced in every location. Also, my iPod works great when I want to take music with me. Rhapsody's previous reliance on a computer and lack of portability were a major detraction and seriously made me think that the folks there just didn't "get it." I felt that "subscribing" to music that was limited in this fashion had no life and was doomed to failure.
  2. No Mac support. Yes, there was an element of support through their web service, but that isn't compelling enough for me to consider dropping iTunes, which I now mainly use for ripping CD's to my network drive, transfers to the iPod, and the occasional music/television episode purchase.

Both of these issues were resolved in the last few months, first with the direct link to Sonos and then the Sansa Rhapsody MP3 player (allowing you to take subscribed tracks with you), and I have to say to Rhapsody...not only am I sorry for my previous low opinion of you, but I want you to know that I have fallen deeply in love with you and if you'll have me back at the rate of $14.99 a month, I will be yours forever (or until possibly something better comes along).

Seriously folks, you have no idea how wonderful subscription based music is...unless of course you do already know...and in which case I'm not talking to you, am I?

Now there still is no Rhapsody client for the Mac, but with the use of Parallels, I'm able to run Rhapsody side by side Mac apps and I'm totally loving it. Anything I add to Rhapsody on my Mac shows up on my Sonos almost immediately. Including from their web-based service. In fact, I haven't played a single track off my network drive in the past two months. I'm totally convinced this is the future of music and how we'll all be enjoying it shortly. Here's why:

 a. Think of a song


 b. Find the song


 c. Funk Out!


With iTunes, I'm limited to what I can listen to by the direct scientific corallation of the size of my bank account and my purchasing power, which judging by the AMEX bill due this month, isn't very large at all. But what's really exciting me here is the thought that I've seen the fifth large shift in my music habits in the past 18 years, and I'm thrilled at what the future has to hold. From Albums to Cassettes, Cassettes to CDs, CDs to MP3s...and now MP3s to Subscription-based tracks...and the last part just happened in just a couple of months. And while I've become a bit of a iTunes TV junkie, I'm again thinking that we are finally on the cusp of another revolution of delivery, this time led by a new breed of box.

 Ahhhhh....to Wii

I've been waiting soooo long to make that joke somewhere. 

This weekend at a friends house I sat and browsed YouTube with the most interesting and natural UI I've experienced in years...on a television using the Wii. The force feedback on this thing is amazing and I'd literally throw my xbox off the patio to have one of these things.  Seriously...Nintendo...are you listening? Let's talk...bring a camera crew. If I were Apple, I'd be taking some of that windfall of cash I've been hoarding (and that market cap) and I'd be purchasing myself a little known company called Nintendo.

I'm not an huge gamer...and my fiance is definitely not...but we've never had so much fun in front of the television. She even wants one. Nintendo has done something quite remarkable with this device, and the interface is one of the finest I've seen in a long time. Because of the controllers ability to detect motion and the natural way that it uses literal "pointing" at the screen, I'm convinced we'll all be experiencing our televisions and even computers this way in the next 5 years because it makes you feel connected to the technology...a participant, not just a witness. And if you haven't yet seen the whole Mii thing, you are in for a real treat.

This experience has me thinking that Apple's iTV device better be outstanding. You can't release a crappy first version on us and work out the bugs on the next rev...it has to be great. But regardless of that, both Apple and Nintendo are bringing simple new ways to enjoy the world outside with the world inside.  And while I know MS is working on something new with Vista...I have yet to give it a test run.

Which brings me to my original thought...I'm really excited! We're witnessing a revolution that is going to happen quicker than any technology shift we've seen in the past 100 years. That shift is occurring in how we view ourselves, our geography, what our information means to us, it's location, and how we share it. We are beginning to see a blending of who we are with every device in our lives...and how they help define us.

Best yet...for the first time the personal computer is starting to take a back seat and becoming simply a part of the revolution, not just the leader. And that thought has me thrilled.

Given that, I'd love to know what types of services, gear, and solutions you are excited about for 2007. 

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