Mar 23, 2007
Let’s be honest and say that the iPod and iTunes have very little they need to do to improve. The music delivery system is good enough that they are the dominating force in the digital music distribution/portable player marketplace. They could stagnate and still be the leading seller for another year or two at the very least.
But just for grins I’m going to suggest a potential improvement: Summed Portable Playlists.
Ok so my name is academic but that doesn’t matter. Apple’s team of word junkies will come up with a better name.What matters is that Summed Portable Playlists takes two (or maybe more) playlists and adds (err … sums) them to a portable device for later playback.
I’m currently learning Japanese. I’m using the Pimsleur method because it rocks. Sure I won’t be able to read, but I’ll be able to speak it. And that’s the fun part anyway. I take my Pimsleur CDs and burn them to iTunes. I like to keep two or three Japanese lessons on my Shuffle at all times. The rest of the device I want filled with music.
A Summed Portable Playlist would take X number of tracks from playlist 1 (in our case, 3 tracks from my Japanese Lessons playlist) and add them to Fill-the-rest-of-the-device-with-5-star-music playlist. Then load up my shuffle.
My explanation is probably more complicated than required. Once my Summed Portable Playlist is developed, from then on I can pretty much just plug in my Shuffle and have the machine do the work. I don’t have to manage it. Which is my goal: I don’t want to manage iTunes or my iPod. I just want to hear what I want.
This feature works well for:
- Store music in iTunes
- Make frequent use of their portable device
- Have a few specific files they want on their portable always (i.e. audiobooks, podcasts, language lessons, news, favorite band/songs/genre/length/etc/ad naseum)
- Want the remainder of their portable device filled with different content (i.e. different content from that listed in the previous point)
- Are geek enough set up playlists for the two preceding points.
The current method of achieving the proposed functionality:
- Develop playlist for music I want on my iPod (in my case, rated 4 or 5 and hasn’t been played in the last two weeks). Set this playlist for Autofill. Once done, never need to think about this step.
- Do a search for “Pims” in my library or develop a second playlist for content I want on my iPod and navigate to said playlist. You need to do this step and all following steps every time you sync.
- Plug in my Shuffle
- Drag the tracks from item 2 above onto the Shuffle icon.
- Drag the tracks which were dragged in item 4 above to the top of the playlist for easier navigation (and to start your day with your lesson/podcast/etc).
- Click Autofill (which is already set up for grabbing songs from item 1 above).
I should note that, as cumbersome as that looks… it’s not the end of the world. The suggestion of Summed Portable Playlists is an incremental, icing-on-the-cake sort of thing. For people like me (who have two different contexts for their portable device such as learning+listening) it is a killer app. But perhaps this demographic isn’t enough to drive an industry. And certainly the by-a-wide-margin leader wouldn’t need to invest in this sort of development. Would I switch to portable audio content delivery service that offers the feature? Certainly, because it would save me a lot of time and hassle.
Developing a mechanism for Summed Portable Playlists would replace the above 6 steps with:
- Set rules for Summed Portable Playlist (in our example: 3 tracks from playlist 1 + fill the iPod with playlist 2). This step is a one time investment.
- Plug in iPod
- Click Autofill
Anytime a process can be reduced in half (or 2/5 as the situation above) then there’s hope for a competitive advantage. Making the case to the consumer is the job of the companies that have a stake in this business. In the above situation, we’re looking at a market demographic of people that learn, like to optimize systems, have disposable income for portable digital audio players, time to consider their audio collections, and desire for finer control of their audio intake than is currently offered.