Music, Maestro

by francine Hardaway on September 20, 2002

If I had my choice of any place in the world to live, I would not choose a castle in France, the Ritz Carlton in Laguna Niguel, or even a place on a beach in Costa Rica. Right now, I’d choose to move into the Apple Store at Biltmore Fashion Park in Phoenix. A modern, white, techno-Paradise, the Apple Store sells 23′ plasma screens, G4 movie-making computers, and the world-class IPOD. (Check your local listings for an Apple Store near you; I’m sure they all look alike.)

Biltmore Fashion Park is a high end shopping center, and the interior of the Apple Store is right out of an Italian interior design magazine or an art gallery. The computers and peripherals on display look like a combination of furniture and sculpture. When combined with the current ad campaign aimed at Windows users, this Apple Store is the most incredible merchandising job I can recall. I went in there to help a friend research laptop computers, but I emerged with a 20-gig IPOD. And they’re not inexpensive.

Now let’s talk about the IPOD, which has only recently become available for Windows. It is about the size of a pager, and comes in white plastic or silver. It is accompanied by sleek ear-buds, a small battery charger that is not really visible when placed in an electrical outlet (unlike those big black rectangles), and an even smaller device to control the IPOD remotely while the device itself is in your pocket. (Fits in there beautifully). Everything about the IPOD is color-coordinated, right down to the box.

In case you don’t know what an IPOD is, it’s an MP3 player. With it, you can carry about 4,000 tunes with you, and keep yourself entertained for the better part of a day. It has a capacity far beyond its nearest competitor, and comes in three storage sizes. I got the biggest one; the IPOD’s hard drive is the same size as that of my desktop computer. Among other things, I can now carry the contents of both CDs of John Friend’s Anusara 101 with me when I travel.

I have also heard that the IPOD has spawned a new crime: owners go into computer stores, connect their IPODs to the 1394 port on a computer, and rapidly download software to the IPOD without paying for it.

Yesterday at an economic forecast breakfast I heard the futurist Dr. James Canton ( speak. He talked about the four power tools of twenty-first century business: ubiquitous connections, collaboration, nanotechnology, and biotechnology. Within that context, he said that any business that develops a solution to empower its customers would own those customers. Indeed, the IPOD empowers its customers, especially if you have also bought the package of speakers JBL sells with it: called ‘The Creature.’

The Creature is a sub-woofer than looks like a character from a science fiction movie, accompanied by two small speakers that look like its children. They are all made of shiny white plastic. I’ve set the IPOD and The Creature up in my exercise room, replacing an antiquated (and ugly) set of black audio components. My exercise room is now the best looking room in the house.

But for me, the joy of the IPOD will come largely from being able to take with me all the music I downloaded from Napster before it became illegal, including everything from Bessie Smith to Bob Marley and Nelly to Neil Young. No more bulky Case Logics and CD-Walkmen that use four AA batteries every half hour. And good-bye even to my lastgen Intel MP3 Concert Audio Player, with its limited capacity. I haven’t gotten this high on a gadget since I got my Palm phone.

The IPOD did expose my own weaknesses, however. It files all your music through software called MusicMatch. I have this software on my desktop, and I even went so far as to collect all my tunes in its library. But MusicMatch enables you to make playlists, and I never bothered to do that. Everything in my library is alphabetical, which means if I want to play a group of songs, they will probably be only the ‘A’s or the ‘C’s, and not any meaningful or even related selections.

Bummer. I have to go back and organize my music into easily available segments. In my spare time, I will do this. It’s a small price to pay for the kind of power that comes with the IPOD.

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