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Friday, January 15, 2010

Taking the Apple Experience to the next level – Give me iTunes Central

Everyone is enamoured with Apple in the tech space and trying to copy them. There is a general app store frenzy, there is a mobile touch UI frenzy everyone is trying to find their little Steve Jobs to make awesome products. Companies are trying to add innovative gestures, clever new menu structures solutions for idle widgets. All important, but marginal.

I thought of looking at the Apple experience as the provider of a digital life style. First of all in that section they are roughly competing with Bang & Olufsen, Samsung, LG and Sony but having far superior solutions, yet the uniquely best can greatly improve. Give me iTune Central

The key problem Apple has created with its digital lifestyle is a massive media fragmentation. Photos are in one silo, music in another, videos chucked into music and then sync chucked on top.Then these silos are fragmented in a range of Apple devices. In the end a real mess.

What has happened over the past few years is that Apple has proliferated my life deeper and wider. I have Apple in my living room in London, an iMac 24”, it is in my bag, an Macbook Air, in my bag is also, an iPod touch 32GB. In my pocket is a 32GB iPhone 3GS. Finally in my library in Helsinki is a MacMini, + a 40” Samsung 7-Series LED TV and an Apple TV. On top of that I have a two time Capsules, one 1TB and one 2TB and an Airport Express, finally I have an Apple TV also in the library in Helsinki.

All the devices work well except I cannot get the Airport Express to set up as a control unit for some speakers in the living room speakers.

So what is wrong and what does Apple need to do for me next. I need iTunes Central. iTunes Central defragments my media in my Apples. It consolidates my 3 iTunes libraries, with slightly different music. It joins two iTunes with different bought media, the main library is in London and the secondary is in Helsinki. When I buy media I buy HD content on my AppleTV. I have decided not to go down the BlueRay player route, another physical media format is really old school. My pictures are a mess, I have some pictures on my Macbook, I am building a family collection in the library on the iMac and I have my main library in London on the iMac. These needs to be consolidated. Pictures needs to be synced and connected and duplicates deleted. The media needs to be consolidated and be clonable to more machines, or I need to have the movie library in one place. Finally I need a one click Rip my DVDs into iTunes Central and then be able to cache them to where I happen to be.  In other words, my iTunes world needs to anticipate with a media mover genius where I am and what devices I am using. This media genius should know that I am not in London today, so it should move the media to me. So if I am moving about and there is a new episode of TopGear bring it to the device that was last used, or ask me where I want it. Automatically put it into iTunes Central.

For this to work I think one needs some type of TimeCapsule iTunes Central device which exists at home and is cloned in the cloud, for transcoding and mobile dynamic delivery.

I would probably rush to the shop and buy a €600 Euro Time Capsule iTunes Central, with 4 Gigs of storage, two at home and two in the cloud.

Then with iTunes Central I just press a button and it sucks all my media into it and then distributes synced clones into all my Apples. Then each Apple evolves so that I can edit it on any one of them.

This is really hard to build, the edge cases are numerous and hard to debug. In Nokia Lifeblog and Yahoo Connected Life we had rich media syncing and the problem is really hard to manage, but then hard problems are to be solved and this is a problem Apple has created for me, so I need them to solve it.

If they do it in the next 12 months, then that time can be immidiately doubled as a competitive advantage as others are still busy building a better Twitter widget for their dynamic home screen.





01:07 PM | Permalink


Right on. I come across tons of problems like this, with a much less complicated set up than you (a macbook for me, a macbook for my partner, an Apple TV and a home Mac Mini).

For example, my partner and I buy a lot of music together (either as CDs to be ripped, or via iTunes). Home Sharing has made it a bit easier for us to copy the music from one mac to another, but can still lead to duplicates and is hard to manage. Plus the Apple TV can only be syned to one mac - so we have to choose which one has the 'most' music on it - usually the mac mini, which means copying everything again onto there.

Photos are even more of an arse. They are sometimes personal, but more often a shared collection among a family (or a couple). But managing a shared collection among several macs is hard.

Finally, video. You're totally right, video is a mess. The distinction seems to be that video I film (on an iPhone or a camera) goes in iPhoto, but video I buy goes in iTunes. Videos you've edited in iMovie go into a big black hole unless you export them and re-import them into iPhoto or iTunes (you choose which).

It's a big mess.

On the whole though, they're doing a better job than anyone else, and as you say, these problems are all solvable.

By the way, I still kinda miss Nokia Lifeblog, but the lure of the Apple user experience was impossible to resist... :-)


Posted by: Frankie Roberto at Jan 15, 2010 7:08:56 PM

I have virtually all the components you mention
recently invested in a four bay drobo hard drive
primarily for movies tryed exporting the music files from finder only to find I should have exported from itunes but because I deleted them from the hard drive they are lost on the imac hard drive and taking up valuable space I hope the genius bar will help sort out..

have great respect for these guys hope they can help you too

I never use iphoto now and prefer to keep those in my sandisk folder as canon's software is more comprehensive I might at some stage upgrade elements version 4.0 to photoshop is only £200 for the upgrade

I play all my music on the zeppelin with the ipod touch/classic even though I have the sound sticks on the sony led tv would like to configure my network with proper encryption but I'm at a loss

I might get the tablet if it's what I need my idea is to use it for viewing images in the field and might make sorting problems with apple easier if I have a larger mobile platform

recently had to trade my ipod touch for a new gen model because ..I could not watch any utube links from twitter every one had a grey triangle with a dash through it and at some stage I lost the utube button if I restored as new it was on the screen but when I re-synch'ed it disappeared again

Posted by: peter at Jan 15, 2010 10:44:27 PM

I'd argue that an iTunes Central might have a great appeal to consumers today, because Apple currently feels like being forever. And the ecosystem Apple is building up feels like being forever. At least, now. At least, with Steve Jobs at the helm.

So if Apple is able to solve the technical issues, the brand appeal is currently a non-issue. Accordingly, people are likely to entrust their digital valuables into Apple. At least, now. At least, with Steve Jobs at the helm.

But what about the time after Steve Jobs?

I'd argue that a Digital Central ecosystem is needed which is going beyond Apple. People must be able to withdraw their digital valuables from Apple and either put them under their digital pillow or deposit them onto their BofDU (Bank of Digital Universe) account. People must have the trust that governments will be willing to come to the aid of BofDU when it is close to bankruptcy.

Can Apple act as a trailblazer here? I honestly doubt it. Because in order to do so, Steve Jobs would need to stand up and say "we are the best amongst equals". He would not have any problem with the "we are the best" part, right? But I cannot imagine the words "amongst equals" coming out of Steve Jobs' mouth.

Posted by: Antti Myka at Jan 20, 2010 11:15:32 AM

if I am moving about and there is a new episode of TopGear bring it to the device that was last used, or ask me where I want it.

Posted by: 4gb compact flash at Feb 19, 2010 9:28:36 AM

Thanks again for an analysis tjat hits the heart of the problem today.
The problem has been there since the beginning with Apple and consolidating media accross many devices. I really hope Apple gets to a solution soon. It could Bert well be a second generation "cloudsync" indras of just syncing calendar and contacts.

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Posted by: iPad Screen Protector at May 20, 2010 4:38:05 PM

Apple ok but not for computers too difficult when you are used to windows.

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