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Open-Source Convergence, and Apple Reconsidered

I see that Apple’s introduced the Airport Express, which (among other things) allows you to play your computer-stored music on your stereo system. While this is a limited, stop-gap solution when compared to Microsoft’s Media Center strategy, it’s still a move in the right direction, and shows that maybe Apple hasn’t blown its “digital hub” strategy after all. Which, if true, means that I was wrong in that earlier entry. Thankfully, I enjoy being wrong when I’m pessimistic.

But right now, if you want to listen to your digital music archive on the stereo — which, it being the Year of Convergence, you do — you don’t want to be mucking about with either Apple or Microsoft. Microsoft’s Media Center, while a bet in the right direction and (I predict) the eventual winner of the convergence wars, doesn’t yet have the hardware support it needs to be fully useful; and Apple’s Airport Express, while a step in the right direction, doesn’t have enough functionality to be fully useful. So if not Microsoft and Apple, then who?

Open-source, that’s who — specifically, the Squeezebox, a little black box that, in conjunction with open-source server software (which runs on Windows, Unix, or Mac), makes it easy to get at your digital music on your stereo. It’s got a great user interface, the functionality is exactly what you (or, at any rate, I) want for a pure music device, and it can play music in any major format (AAC, MP3, FLAC, WAV, WMA). I bought one of these a few weeks ago, and while I’m not even done ripping all my CDs (in WMA Lossless format, because I’m still betting on Microsoft), I love it already. The Squeezebox is to music listening what TiVo is to TV viewing, in the sense that it adds enough convenience to change the complexion of the activity.

The Year of Convergence is running nicely ahead of schedule for me.

Comments | June 8, 2004

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