|Tuesday, January 6, 2004
12:23 - Merry Christmas! How'd you like some crap?
So Steve just gave his keynote for this year's MacWorld. And though I didn't get to see it very well (the video stream kept freezing and cutting out), I got the gist of it. The gist in question is that this is going to be one helluva year for Mac-based musicians.
The big news is GarageBand, which is supposed to be what kicks CakeWalk into the gutter and pees all over it. Any USB or MIDI keyboard can plug into your Mac and do full MIDI mixing, audio track recording, and a whole bunch of stuff that I don't understand much, seeing's how I'm no musician. (Well, not these days, anyway.) However, one thing Steve said I found very interesting: he quoted a statistic that 50% of American households have at least one member who is an active musician. As in, currently plays an instrument-- not just "played trumpet once in junior high". Playing it right now. This from the country that has no culture, huh?
So right now I have a Dell in the back of my car. I'm going to be taking it over to a friend's house this afternoon, to give it to him as a late Xmas present, because his existing computer sucks so much. Get this. The reasons he wants to use a computer are as follows: 1) To listen to music; 2) to use an iPod; 3) to use CakeWalk for his MIDI music. I've been spending the past three weeks fighting with his machine trying to get it to play nice with my old iPod, and to use iTunes (which it does okay at), though his old copy of CakeWalk may not install. So here I come with this new Dell to give him, which will come as a great shock to him when I show up on his doorstep.
To top it all off, while he's spent the past few weeks in the dark about this, he's been discovering Macs. Browsing the websites, gaping at the features, ogling and drooling, finding out about student discounts, everything. And now, just as though to pound me between the eyes with a red hot irony, Steve has neatly removed CakeWalk from the picture as a reason why I should be giving the guy this Dell in the first place.
I'll show up at his door: "Hi! How'd you like exactly the opposite of what you need?"
Or maybe I'll just bury it in a hole and tell him all about GarageBand.
Anyway, there's also this: the "iPod mini". 4GB hard-drive based, the size of a business card, half an inch thick, and comes in anodized colors. Designed to go after the high-end Flash player market, the Rios and things that sell for $199 or so. But the price? $250. Yuck. I was hoping they'd be able to undercut the competition a bit. But considering that the competition in question is flash-based players capable of holding only 60 or so songs, $50 is perhaps a reasonable premium to pay. (And for $50 more, you can get a 15GB regular iPod.)
Then again, Rio (or whatever the company is called) seems to have just released its own 4GB, $250 player, though its website doesn't seem to have been updated. 2,000 songs and 16-hour battery life? Well, yeah, but it's not an iPod.
Oh, and with GarageBand, you can export your track straight into iTunes and thence onto your iPod. The promo video showed Cheryl Crow doing effectively that; and if those 50% of American households have musicians who are even moderately adept at composing music, we've just witnessed the birth of the direct artist-to-listener music market, bypassing not only the distributors and the labels, but the recording studios too.
We'll see how well this works out.
UPDATE: Incidentally, I'm a little annoyed that the iPod mini has ring buttons-- just like the old regular iPods. This is great. What they've done, apparently, is made the touch-pad wheel so that it rocks on top of the buttons, which click underneath the surface of the wheel. So it's still watertight and everything, but now it's back to the old spatial elegance of the ring buttons.
What annoys me is that the current generation of regular iPods has that row of indistinguishable round control buttons, which I'm still working on getting used to. It's okay, I guess, but I'd much prefer it if they'd been able to work in these new multi-layered ring buttons. Ah well-- fourth-gen iPods, right?
UPDATE: So there's this Pepsi promo, too. Did I hear that right? One in three Pepsi bottles will have a valid free-song code under the cap? That's got to be the most genuine value ever offered in one of these promo things. Usually it's like, every 10,000th bottle gets, I don't know, a free drink at Burger King or something. But a free iTunes song for a third of all Pepsi bottles? This'll be huge.