Could Chromebooks Offer An Alternative To iTunes?

Posted on 16. May, 2011 by in Chrome, Chrome OS

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I’ll come right out and say it, I love my iPod. It runs well, it’s durable, and it’s light as a feather (and about as easy to transport). Plus, I can jam enough music on there that I could listen to it for a full day and still not hear my whole library. There’s one little hang up I have with the gadget, though. It’s a rather nasty little gremlin that simply refuses to be separated from the device. I am, of course, speaking about iTunes and its overbearing big brother QuickTime.

Ah, iTunes.  Dealing with this temperamental system hog very often feels like pulling teeth.  Now, I’m sure it runs quite well on Macs. Thing is, a lot of people who own and iPod don’t own a Mac. I’m one of them. And that’s a problem- since on most other platforms iTunes is more like a bloated, flatulent hippopotamus than a graceful gazelle.

Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit. I mean, I suppose iTunes works well enough – aside from the fact that it can’t run without QuickTime. And the fact that it takes up way more system memory than it needs to. And the fact that it simply refuses to play most video formats. And the fact that, if you download songs from the iTunes Store, you’ve pretty much got your hands tied as far as what you can do with those downloads.

There’s also the fact that iTunes requires you to store all your music files on both your iPod and your computer. While a lot of you might be scoffing at something like that, music files do tend to stack up rather quickly. Wouldn’t you rather use those eighty gigabytes for something else? And as for you audiophiles, aren’t you tired of having more music on your computer than you have space on your Mp3 player?

All of these frustrations could soon be a thing of the past.

Music on the Cloud

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I’m sure the majority of you already know where I’m going with this – cloud music. No more iTunes. No more wasting hard drive space to store your songs. Just you, your Chromebook, and your songs.  Rather than functioning as a central focus for your listening experience, your laptop will simply be an input and output point. Even the software will be housed elsewhere- no more wondering where all your resources went when all you wanted to do was listen to a few songs.

So, more space for music and less memory to listen to that music? Sign me up!

It’ll be an entirely new listening experience, one in which web-based apps are going to play a crucial role. There’s likely going to be at least several music distribution programs available for use on the Chromebook, such as Spotify and MOG. Naturally, all of these will be running on the Cloud.  Unfortunately, if you want to have access to any of these web apps, you’re going to need to pay a subscription fee- more on that later.  For now, let’s talk about cloud music.

There are a lot of possibilities, a lot of places Google could go with this. And I love all of them. I want you to imagine an Mp3 player. That’s easy enough, right? Now, this Mp3 player is unique – it has no hard drive. Instead, it streams its music – all of it- from a remote server. With this device, likely small enough to fit in the palm of your hand, you have access to what could amount to days – or even months – of music. That sounds pretty sweet, doesn’t it? That sort of thing is probably quite a long way off, but the tech’s definitely there.

The Cost of the Cloud

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Naturally, something like this isn’t going to come free. There are a few costs of cloud music, and not all of them are monetary. If you want to make use of the cloud and web applications on a Chromebook, you’re going to need to shell out money to buy one when they come out. Peanuts, for sure- but it still costs more than a run of the mill MP3 player. Of course, anything beyond that is free-aside from any subscription fees the developers of music apps might opt to charge their users.  Still, the combined cost of all these services probably won’t amount to much.

Of far greater concern is the data plan. See, the biggest problem with cloud computing is that we’re not really living in a world where Wi-Fi is available everywhere. There are still plenty of dead zones in North America as far as wireless internet access is concerned, and in the aforementioned situation, you’re going to need to use 3G to access your files. That is, assuming you paid extra for a 3G enabled Chromebook. Otherwise, you might just be out of luck.  Anyway, the problem with 3G internet access is…well, it tends to get a little expensive.

Eliot Van Buskirk of Evolver.FM has a pretty good breakdown of how much listening a standard Chromebook data plan would allow over 3G (and the associated cost of that plan):

“Assuming you use your data plan for nothing else, here’s how much wireless listening the standard Chromebook 3G wireless plans will allow (assuming a 128 Kbps bit rate for the music) depending on how much you pay for your wireless data, above and beyond whatever your music locker or subscription service might cost:”

Free 100MB per month (what you get with the first two years of ownership under the current plan): 1 hour and 45 minutes of music playback for an entire month

$10 for an unlimited day pass: listen all day

$20 for 1GB of data in a given month: a little over half hour of music per day

$35 for 3GB of data in a given month: nearly two hours of music per day

$50 for 5GB of data in a given month: a little over three hours of music per day

This is, hands down, the biggest weakness of cloud music- and cloud computing in general.

Final Word

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Assuming you use your Chromebook primarily in areas that have wi-fi, the use of cloud computing as an alternative to blundering programs like iTunes is very, very tempting indeed. Unfortunately, cloud music brings with it its own gremlin-data rates are very, very expensive, so you’re somewhat limited as to where you can access your music, and when. This is precisely the reason a cloud-connected MP3 player is probably quite some time way- 3G is just far too pricy to be used in such a manner.

So, does the Chromebook offer up a suitable alternative to such programs as iTunes? Tentatively, yes. While it’s still too early to give a definitive answer; I, for one, like what Google’s doing here.

How do you plan on rocking your music setup with a Chromebook?

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Related posts:

  1. Video: Chromebooks for Business and Education
  2. Review: The Cloud Player
  3. Google Music to Arrive Before Christmas?

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4 Responses to “Could Chromebooks Offer An Alternative To iTunes?”

  1. Mats

    17. May, 2011

    Well, that may be so for US data plans – Where I live, unlimited 3G data plans come below $30. I happily pay that without having access to cloud music storage (Thanks, Google, for making Google Music Beta available only in US!) and will be even more happy the day I do.

  2. TC

    17. May, 2011

    This is absurd. Why would I carry around a CrBook to listen to music? If I’m going the way you suggest, why not just use my phone with 3G / Wi-Fi? I already have it, already paying for the data plan and it’s much more portable.

    As for iTunes, that’s what you get when you get in bed with
    Apple. A great time but feel violated in the morning.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love my Cr48 but I don’t think this is a viable alternative to your iPod.

  3. acupuncture

    17. May, 2011

    This really doesn’t have anything to do with the Chromebook as much as how Google is implementing their cloud music service–you can access it via any browser, mobile or desktop. The big thing they need to compete with iTunes is seamless cloud sync with iTunes and to give the iTunes user a viable way to purchase more music at a better price and allow them to sync with their choice of players.

  4. zunebeast

    08. Aug, 2011

    So you want streaming music to your handheld device? And a music player on your computer that doesn’t hog all your resources and lets you put the songs you choose on your device, without having to have a partner software installed to get it on your computer? Oh…wait…THAT EXISTS!! Its called Zune and Zune software. sure you’d have to pay that monthly fee like you’re already talking about for chrome for the music streaming, but we have Zune Pass, which you can use on your Xbox, Zune, PC, and Windows Phone 7 seamlessly.iTunes has such a chokehold on consumers, if they would only look, there ARE better alternatives. Oh, here’s another kicker: you can take your Zune and sync it with a friends Zune software and get his songs or put songs on his computer without using iRip or something like that.

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