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Mobile Music Getting Seriously Disruptive


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There’s a real depth to the innovation happening within mobile music – and not just from the usual suspects.

Last week it was announced that Didiom, the mobile music place-shifting application, is being introduced to the Blackberry Curve. For those not familiar with ‘place-shifting’, this simply refers to the act of moving content from one device to another via an internet connection. In most cases this involves taking content from your home PC and throwing it at a remote PC or laptop. There have been variations on this theme around for some time, and many of you (especially our US readers) will be familiar with the Slingbox. This little unit hooks up to your TV and “slings” the channels over the internet to any remote PC, allowing you to watch all those cable or satellite channels you’ve already paid for from just about anywhere you can find a broadband connection. I hear this is especially popular with homesick Road Warriors who have grown tired of 30 second YouPorn, er, YouTube clips whilst sitting in hotel rooms, digesting club sandwiches.

So, bringing the place-shifting concept to digital music could prove to be a very interesting development. Didiom www.didiom.com lets music fans access their PC-based music library from their mobile broadband device (which now includes the Blackberry Curve http://www.didiom.com/company/news.aspx). Now, this will require a few things in order to work properly, including either a) an unlimited mobile data plan, or b) a mobile device with WiFi, and most definitely c) a mobile device with a battery able to handle a 3G or WiFi connection for more than, say, 15 minutes (Samsung Omnifone owners will know what I mean here).

Of course, it also means that users will have to leave their home PC/laptop on (and online) while they’re out being mobile, but then nobody is claiming that new media is particularly green. In fact, consider the recent report that a single Google search has the same carbon footprint as boiling a cup of water for your tea or coffee and you’ll get some idea. Anyway, it all sounds pretty damn good, doesn’t it? It’s a potentially enticing alternative to all manner of Operator and Handset Manufacturer music services. This is further evidence that Blackberry is really going after the iPhone and attracting the very application developers working in the mobile music space.

But what if your mobile data connection or price plan leaves something to be desired? Wouldn’t it be nice to have a few side-loaded tracks just in case the streaming suddenly stops (or becomes prohibitively expensive)? Well, how does having your entire music collection on a chip the size of your fingernail sound? Yep, this is the news from memory card maker SanDisk http://www.sandisk.com that their new 32nm technology has the potential to create fingernail-sized flash storage chips with 500 Gig to 1 terabyte storage capacities.

To lend some perspective to this, my personal digital music collection has about 6,000 tracks, generally encoded at 192k, and all that consumes just 25 gig of storage space. Now combine this with SD’s chip-based music formats ‘Slotmusic’ http://www.slotmusic.org/ and ‘Slotradio’ http://www.slotradio.org/ (both launched October 2008) and the mind starts to boggle. Does this have potential to take us right back the halcyon days of physical format sales? I’m not sure what the download, streaming and subscription music companies think about all this, but I’m personally pretty excited about it.

I’m particularly interested if someone clever creates a mobile data app that synchs my PC music files with my mobile 500G SanDisk card Over the Air (OTA), then I think I will have found my ideal solution (synch just my ‘New’ and ‘Deleted’ files please, I need to save on my precious mobile data allotment). I can always use Last FM Mobile or Pandora for music discovery while on the move, but in terms of lugging my digital music files around, this might just be an ideal solution. Is it all too good to be true?

This thought brings me to the final piece of mobile music which seems set to ruffle some feathers, namely that our old friends at Double Twist are back on the scene with a new Media Manager. For those of you unfamiliar with Double Twist, they are the makers of some seriously disruptive software that enables you to translate your digital music files from ‘Format A’ to ‘Format B’ at the click of a mouse, making a mockery at The Man’s attempts to limit your use of purchased tracks through various forms of DRM.

The little devil on my shoulder is saying “Go get Nokia ‘Comes With Music’, download all of their tracks to your Nokia Music profile, Double Twist all the songs to MP3, and then side-load them all onto a SanDisk chip.” The even bigger big devil is saying “Get them all of Pirate Bay first”. Anyway, all this is a little nerdy and tedious for the average music consumer perhaps, but I recall doing something even more difficult to get around iTunes DRM for over 2 years by burning iTunes tracks as audio CDs, and then ripping the CDs back onto my PC as MP3 files.

So, how long before some of these new mobile-centric propositions really start to crack the digital music ‘ubiquity issue’ once and for all?

Not long, if the pace of developments such as these is anything to go by.





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