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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
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
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.
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?