Genres in streaming music industry

Cloud-Music

Just this other day, Google announced its Google Play Music at their Google I/O . And the rumors of Apple iRadio and the challenges involved have been in the news for quite sometime now. Some say google beat Apple in the world of Internet music. But if you look closely, there is a fundamental difference in the approaches that Google and Apple have taken in the field of digital streaming music. To understand this, lets look at two of the main runners in this field today – Pandora and Spotify.

Although both Pandora and Spotify are common in their goals to deliver music to consumers, without actually a need to purchase the albums, their ways of doing it are different. While Spotify follows more of an on-demand, subscription based model, Pandora has resorted to a webcasting service. This difference is not as apparent on the desktops and laptops, where both parties offer free access to users with ads injected rather frequently. But its not at that shocking a revelation to note that the number of users using their desktops for music have diminished dramatically in the last decade or so. In the handhelds segment, Spotify offers a 30-day free trial, followed by a $9.99 per month subscription and Pandora has extended the same model as they have with desktop. The result is the emergence of two schools of thought – The Pandora Model and the Spotify Model.

Google has decided to follow the spotify model , with a $7.99/month fee for those who subscribe before June 30th and $9.99/month for those after. Of course the 30 day free trial is always a requirement. Rumor has it that Apple will follow the Pandora model , going by its challenges to obtain copyrights, just as Pandora has been criticized for their small collection again owing to the copyright issues.

So now we have two genres in the Internet music industry. Pandora and Spotify have been equally successful in their own respects and when two big players such as Google and Apple decide to take separate stance on their approach to digital music, we now have the battle of the strategies. Only time will tell which of those will go ahead. Until then, lets enjoy the competition!

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Where will Apple go from here…

It did happen. The meteoric rise in stock value that Apple saw in the summer, reaching its peak of $705 in September, is a history now. The stock has been plummeting ever since. Even the release of iPhone5 or the iPad mini could not help its cause. Some call it the Steve Jobs effect and other say it was the high expectations that were placed on these releases. As big an Apple fan that I am, I must admit I was never awestruck by their new releases. iPhone5, with its “longer” screen and its faster processor never really impressed as much as I expected it to. Same goes for an over-priced iPad Mini, when a Kindle Fire HD with the same screen resolution sells for half its price. So then comes the question – Where will Apple go from here?

Let’s list down each major product line and see where they can move towards. Before I start, I must lay down a disclaimer. These are just my personal viewpoints (aka dreams). You are more than welcome to tear it apart and comment on everyone of them.

iMac – one of those “ancestral” product line that brought Apple to this world, back in the 80s.
The names have changed, and the product got slimmer. But the purpose remained the same – a PC or a desktop! Its growth from the earliest Macintosh to the latest offering of iMac 2012 has been phenomenal. But what now? Do we see a touch screen added sometime in future? It is no secret that Steve Jobs has been against this all his life, simple because he thought your arms could quickly grow tired of stretching across the table to touch the screen. But that did not stop Zorro Macsk from hitting the market. Or do we see it getting collapsed (rather integrated) with a new product line – an Apple television?

Apple TV – one of those products yet to produce that aura of awe, which all others carried.
The tiny box that almost resembles a cable set top box, has not been able to replace cable as it was slated to do. And for that same reason this product is yet to undergo a significant revolution. The primary reason for this has been the fact that not many news channels and sport channels have been able to successfully offer their services on it. Rumors have been floating around this year about Apple talking to cable providers . Do we see Apple TV transforming itself to Apple Television? After all Apple did revolutionize the music retail industry. Can we see something similar soon?

iPod – a product that killed the cd players and “walkmans”
Undoubtedly, this has to be the product that brought Apple closer to common man. Along with iTunes, it changed the way people listened to music and ripped apart the music retail industry. It has gone through several shapes and sizes, with the classic, the mini, the nano and the touch. Although the latest of the iPod nano, to me was a step back from its “watch” form factor and its market was partially killed through the launch of iPhone, I do still see music lovers walking on the streets flashing those white ear plugs with an iPad on the other end. So where do we go from here? With the decline in sales that this product has seen over the years since the launch of iPhone, I see it paving way to be collapsed into iPhone at sometime in the future. That seems to be the only logical path. On a slightly lighter note, I did dream of an iWatch when I first saw the 6th generation iPod nano!

iPhone – a fresh face in the world of smartphones
I’m sure I don’t have to talk much about this. Almost 1 in every 10 people I see around me carry an iPhone these days. That in itself says a lot. And what more, Apple has pushed the incumbent mobile phone makers to start thinking outside the box. Touch technology still has a lot of room for innovation. Battery life and cellular technologies can still improve and so can the processor that goes into these smartphones. But what could really make a difference will be its form factor. With bendable phones slowly starting to pop its head out, iPhone can one day turn into a “wearable” gadget (hopefully not as creepy as this ).

iPad – a “personal” laptop
I’m sure the idea was to converge PC and tablet one day. In fact the convergence has been following its natural progression. However iPad in its present form, is still a long way off from replacing a laptop. A beefier processor and storage and an open minded install system for the iOS could potentially take us there. Now a lot of those could be overlooked, with the emergence of cloud. But I guess I will leave that discussion for a later post. Also, the fact that I cannot have a clear path to its file system (unless of course jail broken) is still a limiting factor for its progression.

Macbook – a true laptop
There isn’t much to say about this. The product, although is gaining significantly in its market share with the bigger and better macbook pros, the feather weight macbook air and the competitive pricing models, the only reasonable future I see for it is a touch screen add on. I’m sure, as long as iOS continues to tread its journey towards Mac OSX through the slow path, this product will remain significant.

All that said, could be yet another product in the making – one of those “magical” devices that could revolutionize yet another industry?

Like I said earlier these are all just my hopes and dreams and viewpoints. I’m very much interested in hearing your thoughts on each of them as well. So let those ideas flow… In the meantime, let me leave you with this wonderful concept video!

iOS 6 and Maps

iOS 6 has taken more of a backseat amidst the growing speculations about iPhone 5, as the days get closer to a rumored Sept. 12th launch. Although Apple is yet to give out a release date for this new version, “this fall” is an indicator that iOS 6 will be completely clouded under its hardware counterpart, the iPhone. I must admit I’m as excited about its launch as I was about iOS 4 which came with the first of the multitasking capabilities. And the primary reason for the excitement – The Maps .

Although I’m equally skeptical about how much of a success it can turn out to be, simply due to the fact that through maps Apple has directly opened a battle with Google and for the first time, starting from behind. But the fact that Apple now owns “maps.apple.com”, which currently redirects to the iOS 6 page for maps, is a positive start.

I’ve been (and I’m sure the rest of the world as well) a regular visitor to Google Maps for directions. Google and its well established repository of wealthy data has helped maps to evolve rather quickly to become a common household name, ousting Yahoo Maps from the top. And ever since the launch of iOS, the fact that google maps did not feature a turn-by-turn navigation, as a direct replacement for a physical GPS (such as TomTom) was a major disappointment, esp. since it was pitched as a major feature in Android. The result was, iPhone users, who decided not to jail break their phones had to be content with a $50 TomTom application.

I should however say that over the last 2 years, TomTom app on my iPhone has been a terrific travel companion. Its free map updates and the user-friendly UI is a class apart from the google maps on Android, which to me seems like a UI cluttered with data.

A lot remains to be seen on how good the Apple maps will turn out to be. Apple certainly has jumped into the race very late. Only time will tell if it can actually pick up and boost ahead. For now, I’m still happy with my TomTom Application to navigate my ways.

Apple App Store App of the week:

For long I’ve had this problem of choosing a restaurant. A simple google search or Yelp, has helped me to a certain extent, but never in its entirety, simply because they were not inherently meant for restaurant alone. Along came Zagat with an app. Zagat, with its wonderful pedigree of rating just restaurants with user generated content has found immense success. Their ratings are elaborate and distinct.

If not for Zagat (the app in particular, just for its easiness to use), I wouldn’t have chanced upon White Dog Cafe a quaint little place up in Wayne, PA.

Magical “yet” Revolutionary

It was never an easy catch! A pre-order that started a month before its launch date, a case which arrived 3 weeks before the actual product, almost prompting me to judge the “book by its cover”; add on yet another week of delay on the launch on the 3G version of it, when “ships by late April” seemed like the daily “proverb” that kick started my day alongside a dose of caffeine and it finally arrived on 30th April 2010, keeping the promise on “late april” – iPad (wifi + 3G) , yet another member in my Apple Family!

While it did take me a month to completely free myself from the habitual tapping on a laptop that had almost become a part of my system (I must admit, I did experience some serious withdrawal symptoms, at the early stages of quitting), the iPad did manage to replace a vast spectrum of the work that I did on it – from browsing to blogging, from spreadsheets to presentations and even a shell (although not locally, yet) to a shelf (book shelf at that)! Being completely unbiased was never an option for me. But I must say a well written critique would perhaps sound biased anyway! So while I can go on and on praising this gadget for the way it has changed my lifestyle so far – both at work (with this being my notetaker at the meetings and a paperless replacement for the sticky notes that took a liking to my monitors at the office) and at home (being my diary, Internet, blog, book shelf and a partial technology playground through “VNCs and SSHs” of course) – for once let me try and see if I can be on the other side of the fence.

One of the applications that I was most certainly looking forward to, did disappoint me – iBooks. While the application as such gave an experience that was amazingly close to holding a real book (sans the smell of course), the store has been a huge disappointment so far, with the selection of books restricted mainly to NY Times bestsellers, which never was a choice for me. Having said that, the free Amazon Kindle application did turn out to be a life saver. Amazon did manage to make a smart move to let itself free on a gadget that was bound to kill its hardware. And this would keep the Kindle market place thriving even more!

Wise men from the mountains say, a revolution is a forcible overthrow of an existing system. So while iPad is yet to prove itself to be magical, it certainly is revolutionary, threatening to kill the existing establishment where a combination of laptops and smartphones ruled! Now turning it around again, with Apple’s traditional characteristic of bringing down its own market on its existing products through the introduction of a new product (an example being iPods through iPhones), I do see a potential for iPads to have a go at the iPhones; what with the unlimited data plan on it plus a cheaper voice only option as a phone, working out to be way more cost efficient than an iPhone plan.

BUT then came yet another ios (read iOS, that “surprisingly” rhymed with IOS). With ATT making me eligible for an early upgrade, I guess the family is getting ready to welcome yet another member! And yeah, there is a Nexus One soon to find its way in as a black sheep too!

Technology never ceases to amaze me!

Disclaimer: This was a post that I made on my personal blog sometime back. Thought this could be a good starter for a technology blog, which I hope to update frequently.

iPhone – for common man or business enterprises ?

It might be rather old to write on this, but it still keeps coming up whenever there is a discussion on iPhone that Apple did not manage to break into the enterprise market with its iPhone. And I keep correcting people who tell that to me saying Apple never meant to introduce it to the enterprise market back in July 2007.

It has been quite long since the Palm Treos and the Blackberrys came into existence and they have failed to break into the hands of a common man. The fact is that they always concentrated on the enterprise market, with occasional overspills into the commercial. Along came iPhone in mid-2007 and revolutionized the whole concept of smartphones, with its breathtaking widgets and multitouch. By the end of 2007, the 8GB iphone rose upto number 3 in the top selling smartphones of the year, with just MotorolaQ and Blackberry Pearl above it.

With no support for Microsoft ActiveSync and Cisco VPN in iPhone1.0, my take was that, they never had an intention to enter the enterprise user market right at the beginning. A year later, with over 4 million units sold mainly to the common man, people have grown so much accustomed to it that, they have started thinking about the possibilities that may open by taking it to the enterprise. iPhone2.0 that was announced in March 2007, was absolutely a big leap in that direction, where Apple managed to secure license for the Microsoft ActiveSync, Cisco IPSec VPN and WPA2 Enterprise support with 802.1X.

But by doing so, they did not decide on a complete shift in focus. The announcement of SDK alongside, provided common users with umpteen possibilities to build their own applications that run on the phone.

If you look at how Personal Computers emerged back in 1980s, it followed the same methodology. By the term “Personal”, it was meant for the common man, and with its widespread popularity, entering an enterprise market was just a matter of time. What PC and Microsoft (I completely despise saying this, but still…..:D ) did to personal computing, iPhone and Apple will do to Mobile Computing…..