For a while now, I’ve been using an app called Audiogalaxy to get back to my music library at home and essentially have access to my library with over 100 gigs of music to supplement whatever tracks I have synced to my iPhone/iPad. It’s fantastic, mostly because I know two things:
- I have music on my iPhone that I can listen to anywhere, regardless of whether I have a data connection or not.
- I can, with a data connection, get access to my huge music library.
The recently-uncovered Apple patent application is simultaneously awesome and horrific for a few reasons, all of which have to do with #2.
One of the most explosive and formative things to happen to America recently is the widespread adoption of mobile data and internet usage. As I’ve discussed before, the mobile telecom providers have used this to push their agendas and create an awful dystopian future that the American wireless subscriber is going to end up paying dearly for. It’s going to be ugly, folks. Get ready for a future based on as-yet-unwritten disgusting rates based on AT&T’s greed.
If you think this reaction is a bit overblown, let’s dissect the groundwork that needs to be in place for a person to listen to music with Apple’s new system. A person would need:
- A computer running iTunes (for syncing purposes). This is pretty much standard, and shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.
- An iOS device with a data connection. Not everyone wants to or can run a persistent data connection. iPod touch devices are reliant on wifi, and people with the lower-tier AT&T or Verizon data plan (250 MB for $15.00/month, in AT&T’s case) may not be comfortable with a service that sucks up data every time they wan to listen to a song.
- Possibly: the above computer with a persistent connection to the internet. This is a variable, and the future is hazy here. Depending on how the whole “Music Locker” thing will work, or how MacOS Lion home server is structured, this may or may not be necessary. We’ll see.
Let’s assume that a person has an iPhone, is using AT&T, and is using the $15.00/month data plan for 250 MB of data per month. We don’t know how much of each song will be synced to the iOS device, but let’s assume it’s about 30% of each song to allow ample buffering time. We can then “fit” three times the number of songs on the iOS device due to the reduced footprint of each song on the device’s memory. The remaining amount of each song would then be pulled from a cloud. I say “a” cloud because it’s unclear if that cloud will be the individual’s computer or this “Music Locker” service. Let’s assume it will be from this person’s computer, so as not to incur any additional fees (yet). The computer will have to be on in order to access the library data, which means an extra power demand and a load on the person’s internet usage (we’re also assuming that internet usage is capped, which, despite some companies claiming their data is “unlimited,” is most likely the case). Most likely, the data usage through a home internet connection is insignificant (especially relative to a theoretical cap of 50-250 GB). The proposed data usage relative to mobile internet connection with a 250 MB cap is significant, however, and listening to a day’s worth of music can potentially eat up all of a person’s monthly data before they have to pony up another $25.00 for the higher 2 GB plan.
Did you catch that? Let’s look at it again.
The folks who want to use this feature will be streaming data every single time they listen to music. The amount of data that will be used is unclear, but I predict that listening to music for a prolonged period of time (even a few hours a day) will cut deeply into or completely use up a person’s data for the month (again, assuming usage of a cheaper $15.00/month, 250 MB plan). Even on a 2 GB plan, monthly data usage can quickly skyrocket, shooting people dangerously close to the ceiling or their plan. I use about 1.5 GB/month right now with occasional usage of my Audiogalaxy service to get at my home library. If I were to switch over to a model that used data every single time I played a song, I’d find myself breaking that 2 GB barrier on a monthly basis, which would cost me more money.
AT&T and Verizon made a long-term move here, and we’re staring it in the face right now. Back when AT&T first introduced tiered data pricing, I could see the act as predatory. More and more services are being pushed online, to the cloud, and so forth. What AT&T did was squeeze the pipes before the water started flowing. Netflix is growing in popularity and capability, and their long-term dominance in the mobile media marketplace (I love alliteration!), while not guaranteed, is just shy of that. How are we going to watch movies on our mobile devices if we’re being pinched to do so? How will companies innovate if they know they’re going to be dealing with hamstrung devices? People are going to be paying for subscription services and the bandwidth it takes to use them, a double whammy. The outlook doesn’t look good.
Boy am I glad I got that unlimited Clear iSpot subscription while it was still around.
Came across an interesting post on TUAW today:
Some advantages of the newly integrated suite of server administrative software include a guided setup process for configuring a Mac as a server; “local and remote administration – for users and groups, push notifications, file sharing, calendaring, mail, contacts, chat, Time Machine, VPN, web, and wiki services – all in one place”; “simple, profile-based setup and management for Mac OS X Lion, iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch devices” with Profile Manager; Wiki Server 3, designed to make it “even easier to collaborate, share, and exchange information”; and WebDAV services that give iPad users “the ability to [wirelessly] access, copy, and share documents on the server from applications such as Keynote, Numbers, and Pages.”
What we’re seeing is a paradigm shift in home computer usage. More and more people are shifting away from traditional desktop configurations for their everyday computing and adopting the iPad as their primary method of getting access to the information they want. This as inevitable as it is surprising. Inevitable, because mobile computers have increasingly become the focal point of the technology world; surprising, because it happened so fast and so definitively. I need more than the fingers on my hands to count the number of people who use the iPad as their primary computer. As they become more powerful and ever more portable, that number will increase.
iPad sales have also been staggering, especially when compared to other manufacturers (HP, Samsung), and has captured huge percentages of the market (even markets that don’t even really belong to it). Hence, people are starting to wonder if it makes sense to even own a computer if this sort of thing starts becoming the norm.
Unfortunately, the iPad still needs to sync to something, and this something is quickly changing into less of a computing device and more of a server. The fact that Lion (Mac OS 10.7) will essentially allow any Mac owner to function as a server is quite interesting, and I believe it shows Apple’s future plans under the surface.
Apple likes Mac OS, and believes that it will survive for a long, long time. I agree with this, but I believe that the Mac OS will shift subtly away from its current place as the OS that people see to the OS that works under the surface. It’s a powerful statement about the future roles of the “computer” and “user.” In Apple’s future, the “computer” should be invisible, providing a means for people to access what they need, when they need it. The “user” simply gets access to what he or she wants through one of the many pipelines that transfer his or her data.
This is a trend that I have been participating in for a while, through apps like Simplify (RIP) and now Audiogalaxy, LogMeIn, and Air Sharing. The whole idea is that my iPad serves as a window/portal to everything that I may need.
Introducing a “server” option to a standard install of Mac OS Lion is Apple telling the world that soon, the computer they have sitting in the den will grow wings and live in the cloud.