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Media Synching – a squiggly can of worms

Old iPod

Ever since Napster made us (well, not me, of course!) all into casual pirates, entertainment and technology companies have been wrestling between locking down digital media and keeping it as freely copyable as possible. Now, with many people toting around multiple devices – phones, MP3 players, laptops, desktops, work machines, etc., not to mention the “traditional” devices like stereos and TVs – the need to move your media between each devices freely is felt more painfully than ever.

That ability to watch “my media” anywhere at anytime has yet to be fully realized for the mass-market. If you’re a geeky enough person with some spare hardware, bandwidth, and media rippers, you can do extremely well – but that’s a far cry from the ease of pushing the Power button on your TV, inserting a movie into your DVD players, or touching play on your iPhone.

Erica Naone at the Technology Review recently asked me about these issues in relation to a story on Libox. In addition to the part she quoted, I replied with the following:

The core issue is that the easier it is to sync media, the easier it
is to share media, and the easier it is to pirate media. That said,
with DRM encoded into the media, the point becomes somewhat moot.
But, thanks to the “information wants to be free” crowd and the
annoyances of DRM (like not being able to burn a CD with music you think you “own,” and can do anything with), there’s been sufficient pressure to remove DRM from popular digital media distributors like iTunes and Amazon. Without DRM, making syncing music easy is a night-mare for traditional businesses that are built around using copyright to make money. Companies who own the copyright on media want to extract as much money as possible out of each asset; trying out new business models is scarier than doing “what works.”

That said, as a consumer it’s incredibly annoying that things like the iPod and iPhone have this one-to-one relationship with your desktop. You can’t really sync a iPod to more than one computer, and forget doing it over the air. For as innovative as Apple is in this space, they still have a quant lock-in to the desktop. You have to plugin your iPhone and iPod to a machine with iTunes running on it to sync music and you can only pull media from one such iTunes instance. It’d be an obviously handy feature to be able to sync from the cloud instead of a desktop (though it may be slower, the connivence would seem to win out ongoing) and I’m hoping Android pressure everyone (e.g., Apple) to do so.

Categories: Quick Analysis, The New Thing.

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2 Responses

  1. also just bad design. i mean we're all using iTunes- which seems to only really work properly if you just have a laptop and ipod. any external drives or other storage and everything is redundant, replicated and yuck,y

  2. Yeah, not being able to add storage is stupid. I really have no idea – beyond Apple being lazy and uppity – why they do iTunes like they do.