Friday, October 26, 2007

Moment of Conversion

Ok, so yes, I'm an "early adopter."  I'm definitely on the left hand side of the chasm when it comes to all things technology.  It's always been fun to try something new and shiny whether it was my first encounter with the Apple II (1978), a CD player (1985 - when Dire Straits released Brothers in Arms), the Apple Mac (1989, especially with Wingz, the first graphical spreadsheet I'd seen, possibly the first spreadsheet as I had no idea what Visi-Calc was at the time), going online (1994, with a 28.8 modem, via Compuserve), my first digital camera (1995,  Casio QV-10), an MP3 player (1998, Rio PMP300),  DVD (on the US release of Saving Private Ryan in late 1999),  WAP (1999, Nokia 7210), the iPhone (2007) or any of the numerous other gadgets I've bought, used for a while and, often inevitably, rejected.  Some of them do, of course, stay the course - there's a "moment of conversion" when you get what the gadget does and that's it for keeps - the iPod is a brilliant recent example (owner since 2001).   In the end, some get replaced by the next version of the same thing - the Sony Ericsson P800 was replaced by the P900 and then the P910 for instance; the iPod 5gb, by the 10gb, the 20gb, the mini, the Nano v1, the Nano v2 and so on.

image When I first saw Sonos advertised, the moment of conversion was instant.  Its premise is simple - any music you have, anywhere in the house.  You can have the same track in every room, all perfectly synchronised, with the volume low (avoiding the usual problem of a one-room stereo where the volume has to be up high to be heard throughout the house, but is deafening in the same room as the stereo); or you can have different tracks in every room, just as you want.  You can use your own speakers or ones that you buy with Sonos.  Music streams from your PC, your Mac or, as in my case, from a network attached storage device.  So I became, as it were, an early adopter of Sonos - it's been installed around 3 years now.  As an aside, talking of "install", the set-up process is absolutely the simplest I've ever seen for any potentially complicated gadget.

Now as a proven early adopter, there are some things I just don't get.  MyFace.bo and their ilk for instance - I have pages here and there but I just don't get it, too crazy, too random, too hard to find anyone. Perhaps I'm 15 (some would say 20) years too old for a personal page that does anything more than say "hello world". I also don't get - sharp intake of breath from many - blu-ray or HD-DVD.  Sure it's fine for Planet Earth and the Blue Planet or anything by David Attenborough but, so far, it doesn't tempt me - it will do one day, probably when multi-disc-playing devices are available (funny that HD-DVD plays old DVDs by default but Sony, as is their way, went with proprietary non-backwards compatible). I also don't get the Wii.  Hysterical fun the first time, with a bunch of friends - but then so is Dance Dance Revolution in the arcade or Guitar Hero.  But longevity? Not for me. Not even worth a second play yet; unlike Sony's PS3 which isn't actually worth a first play.  So it's not every gadget that gets me hooked.  One final thing that I hadn't got at all was "all you can eat" music subscriptions.  Until now.

With the latest release of Sonos software (like the iPhone, the nice people there issue pretty regular updates that, so far, always have new features - sometimes they let me try them out before the mainstream release which is also nice), comes bundled a 31 day trial of Napster's all you can eat service.  What this means is that any music you have, anywhere in the house moves to any music you want, anywhere in the house.  I won't pretend that it has everything - most online music services are pretty short on classical music as one example.  But it appears to have an awful lot that I want to listen to.  It also has features like "artist mix" where you select an artist you like and it auto-plays, all from Sonos, music that you might like based on that choice.  It's not perfect - I found it playing a little Mary Poppins alongside Beethoven the other day - but it's always worth being introduced to new music (although perhaps not MP again for a while).

For £9.95 a month once the trial expires, I can keep hold of this service and perhaps never buy another CD again.  Or, perhaps, never have to worry about having a backup of the music that I am listening to for when my nice, shiny, 3rd iteration of NAS goes bang.    There is, though, a drawback.  Napster doesn't let you copy the music to an iPod, although you can copy it to just about any other MP3 player that exists. The other drawback is that I don't actually own anything at the end.  No different from leasing a car.  Just trade it in for a newer model when you're bored with it.

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