Since its introduction almost two years ago, the fashionable and expensive iPod gadget has earned a reputation as a music hoard for selfish yuppies. But perhaps not for very much longer. Thanks to some ingenious Romanian entrepreneurs, it might actually start to be really useful. Here's how.
Since the whole point of music is to share it, portable music devices such as the Walkman and the iPod have been fairly useless until now: as the audience was firmly fixed at 1: the owner.
Now, at last, technology is able to catch up with society. At least in theory: cheap hard disks, wireless chips and decent batteries can be built into a small portable box, and the distribution systems successfully pioneered by the phone companies (that bring $500 computers to the mass market at $99 a shot) are all in place.
So you should be able to walk past your local coffee store or laundromat and collect music as you go - giving them a new social function as a radio station - or simply be able to share your tune of the day with the bus passenger next to you. And you should be able to do so knowing the artist gets paid.
Just as the Good Lord intended.
And right now, we're simply awaiting the implementation phase. However, it isn't the multinationals who own the music rights, or technology companies who market themselves as being at the "cutting edge" (a term that means nothing when the technology isn't doing what we want it to do) who are blazing the trail.
Instead, it's a small two-man smartphone software company based in Bucharest. Best known for its Symbian Series 60 software, Simeda recently introduced a small piece of file discovery software for wireless Pocket PCs which implemented Apple's Rendezvous service. Now they've gone a step further, and begun to make the iPod truly social.
In a bundle that hooks a Pocket PC up to an iPod - with the iPod as a USB slave device - the entire contents of the yuppy's music hoard can now be shared with the rest of the world: via streaming or file transfer.
So in other words, this is a somewhat contrived, Heath Robinson ["Rube Goldberg" for our US-based readers] version of the "Bluepod". The Bluepod concept was enthusiastically discussed here at The Register eighteen months ago, and many of you saw this conceptual device fulfilling a long-standing social need: to share our music.
(Simeda generously credits your reporter in the About box, and although it's true that we promoted the concept as best we could, we can hardly claim credit for inventing such an obviously "doh!" idea. That would be like trying to say we'd invented water.)
The truth is, if we stopped regarding technology companies like kids awaiting Santa Claus, they might learn a thing or two from us. Although the multinationals are doomed to be permanently behind the curve (hence Sony with its attachment to the ATRAAC format, and Apple with its musicless DRM kiosk) these companies aren't stupid. They simply want to make money, and want to know where to go next, and "Bluepod" is the best we can do to nudge them in the right direction. Along with tweaks to the royalty regime that would make everyone wealthier and wiser.
With traditional CD sales and illicit file-swapping on the increase, we're confident they'll come up with social and technology solutions that work. Eventually.
Meanwhile, you can begin your own wireless future at Simeda's site, here. ®
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