Audion was a great product by Panic.
In the very early days of MP3 management, and well before the ubiquity of the iPod, MP3 management software was much more of an open game. When iTunes came out, it really was revolutionary and, admittedly, a damm fine system. The authors said themselves, “but Audion is instead competing with a product that, you know, we actually use ourselves. When you double click the competition in the morning, that’s a pretty good sign that it’s time to hang up your hat!
But there’s a completely new opportunity for them, or any other software developer for that matter, to go where Apple dare not go– where Apple literally fears of going, yet where Apple consistently says they already are: in the center of our digital universe. But how do we get there?
I wrote to the authors of Audion in January of 2007 and heard back this month. I expressed that iTunes was great and everything but with the iPod and now the iPhone and Apple TV to support, iTunes serves only to connect the very specific pieces of Apple’s own infrastructure together. Apple, in no way, serves their customers by working with any 3rd party media players (audio or video), cell phones, streaming media boxes, broadcast TV recorders, PVR, DVR, etc. While that exclusivity was fine with iPod 1.0, now in 2007, there are far more media devices out that Apple ignores. Moreover, those other boxes are, in many cases, far better than Apple’s solutions. Last year’s Archos video PMD makes today’s video iPod look so last century. Today’s phones are not just video and audio players, they are video, audio and still recorders, and friggin broadcast TV receivers too. iTunes’ simple device integration is now its Achilles’ heel- it only works with the iPod, iPhone, Apple TV and Airport Express. This leaves our TiVo, Elgato, Slingbox, Sony Erricson, SamSung, Nokia, Archos, Cowon, etc, etc, etc devices all floundering in an ocean of media like some disparate collection of electronic gismos in desperate need of a life raft they can all climb into together. This way they could share their media and all that could be managed by a single piece of non-apple software designed to work with non-apple devices.
Roxio has done this a little bit with TiVo, but there’s a big hole here. Actually, when you look at all the possible interconnectable media devices at CES this year, there’s a sea of devices waiting for some software to tie it all together. Panic’s co-founder admitted that there is a great bit of trepidation in trying to create a media ap for Mac today because Apple could well be, as Steve Jobs put it, “a giant steam engine about to run you down.”
But the key is that Apple can’t afford to do provide third-party consumer electronics interoperability any more. It was fine in iTunes 1.0 because there was no iPod. But once the iPod appeared, iTunes served only to hook the iPod to the Mac. It was the second leg. Then there came the iTunes store, Apple TV, the iPhone, etc. All hook in to your media through iTunes– exclusively through iTunes. This means that hooking in any third-party media device, like a slingbox, will dramatically hurt the exclusivity of Apple TV. Hooking into a Samsung phone hurts iPhone. Hooking into an Archos player hurts the iPod. There is no way Apple will deliberately hurt the sales (or exclusivity) of it’s own consumer electronics so that some other company can have increased hardware sales. That’s just not gonna happen.
So who can do it?
Panic can do it.
Panic has already done it in the past, back when it was fighting with bigger rivals- dueling it out with Apple itself. Now that Apple has taken the Atlantic ocean, set up its consumer electronic battleships, freighters and carriers along the coastlines, they have ceded the entire Pacific Ocean of home and portable media devices to whomever wants to come in and start hooking them up. They’ll need some serious engineering chops, and definite partnerships with those hardware companies to get the hooks they need for interoperability. But if the agreements can be made, then there’s a big ocean to go fishing in. Lets catch some fish!