I see music everywhere! Mp3 players that Is!

Best Buy opened a huge location five minutes away from my place. So I decided to go for a small stroll and browse through the wares my big blue and yellow neighbour had to offer. Especially since there is a three story Future Shop –which was acquired by Best Buy in 2001 for a thrifty $500 Million– three minutes north on Yonge Street. As some of your may know, I have been homebound for a while yet I was curious to see what a futile exercise in laissez-faire capitalism looks like these days.

Obviously I have been out of the personal electronics must-have’s loop for some time. As little did I know the first pentad of the new millennium has been utterly overrun by the MP3 player.
Sure music is valuable for self-expression and one of the highlights of being human, but since when do people must have a musical player attached to their ears everywhere they go?
I swear I can’t count five people down the street without one bopping their head left to right to some unheard beat. You would think them crazy if it were not for the tell-tale cables running from their pockets to their heads.

No Sony, your Walkman is been buried and dead, so don’t even try it, I won’t be writing about you. Just stick with your cellphones and playstations. Any who, I simply could not believe the store, aisle after aisle, if not of MP3 players themselves than of accessories for the damn MP3 players.

So who is the man in this $4.3 billion MP3 player market you ask? Who is at the top of the hill and the source of ravenous envy to all its competitors? Why the aesthete that is the Ipod of course. With 70 million sold in the last five years the Ipod commands now what Apple has been having wet dreams since its inception back in ’76: A mass audience who also happen to be rabid consumers.

As I walked through the rows of Ipod speakers, car holders, stereo add-ons and the ever needed Ipod socks (just $39.99 for a pack of six) really, I am not kidding. I could not help feeling a little stupefied by all of this. Perhaps ‘overwhelmed’ would be a better word. After all, Apple is not the only one throwing their weight around. Other companies like Dell, Toshiba, Scandisk, Samsung and many others have jumped into the bandwagon. After all, if you build it even if it sucks, someone is bound to buy it.

So on that note, just when you think you can see the end of the party crasher’s line. Here comes big brother Microsoft, elbowing everyone –as usual–out of the way as it tries to get in before MP3 players are passe.

Microsoft obviously not happy there is a market in its road to world domination it has yet to get its sticky fingers on has created what they call an ‘Ipod killer.’ So what is the name of this late entry? It is the Zune. Now on paper this product sounds great. It has a bigger screen than the rest of the competition, Wifi and as such you can share MP3s on the go.
It sounds all great and good until you start finding the Wifi will only work with other Zunes.
That you can only play transfered MP3s three time in three days, after that the song becomes unplayable, unless you buy it from their on-line store. This includes your own collection which you may own fair and square. Heck these includes your own creations! So if you are a musician, don’t put your original work in the Zune. What is the point of sharing then?

However what I found out on my trip to both stores is that at this point in the MP3 market companies are not just selling you a digital player. Oh no. You see, a music player is no longer just music player. It is much more than that. At least that is what millions spent in marketing keep on stating, shouting and dancing in ad after ad: ‘Our Music player doesn’t only play music. It more… It’s cool. Its a media and social event all by itself. It’s an artistic expression, a bold reflection of your raw and unadulterated id for God’s sake! It will get you laid! What are you doing standing there? GO BUY ONE NOW!

Just remember before you buy any of Microsoft products –and in fairness any other product in the future– the Zune is a first generation device. The reviews have been negative for the most part. Not to say that even big brother might not have a good thing going in the future. However right now, they don’t. If you decide to purchase it anyway for this Christmas season, don’t be surprised if you get a little too acquainted with windows such as this one:

Oh, one last thing. The future is in all-in-one devices. Not just on Mp3 players and media players and so on. Apple and its competitors are slowly heading into that direction but will surely take their time until consumers wise up.

For those who are wondering what I have used when needing a music player: I bought myself a smartphone almost two years ago. Put a 1 gig memory card on it and since then I had a colour screen bigger than an Ipod, a phone, a media and MP3 player, plus a voice recorder, pda and Internet browser all for $250. It pays to be an educated consumer, even if does not look as cool as an Ipod.

Update 18/11/2006:
Man uses Mp3 player to hack ATM’s in the UK! Read here.

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