Apple recently announced that they will be offering a â€œMusic in the Cloudâ€ service, whereby users can upload their music library to a server and access it from anywhere with an internet connection.
My first thought was, â€œSo what?â€ but then I read that Google is also working on a similar service, and in fact the two companies were in a race to see who could launch it first. So apparently two of the smartest companies out there think this is a good idea. Given Appleâ€™s recent track record, Iâ€™m going to guess itâ€™s a good bet.
While I believe them that itâ€™s a good idea, I will never use it, and I would never have thought of it. Why not? Because I donâ€™t need it. I have my ten-dollar-a-month Dreamhost account on which I host this website and a bunch of others. My account was granted unlimited storage for life to make up for some billing mix-up a couple years back, so all I need is rsync, ssh, and a couple Perl scripts and I can have the same functionality without the privacy concerns of using Apple or Googleâ€™s service. If I want a slick streaming web interface, well thatâ€™s easy with some Django-based magic and an open-source Flash media player – I can even customize its source code! So why would anyone need a third-party music streaming service?
Whatâ€™s that? You mean not everybody knows Perl? Not everybody manages web apps for a living? Not everybody cares about privacy?
Donâ€™t Be Too Smart
Well, clearly Iâ€™m not the target audience for this idea. But thatâ€™s a problem, and if youâ€™re reading this blog itâ€™s probably a problem for you, too. Iâ€™m not saying we all need to compete with Google or Apple, or that we have the resources. Iâ€™m saying we â€“ and by we I mean the developer community, those who would rather read Slashdot than People â€“ are missing out on opportunities. We casually dismiss the People-readers because they type LOL after every sentence, because they use the word â€œpasswordâ€ as their password, because they donâ€™t know how to right-click their mouse, because they shell out $2.50 for a 30-second ring-tone when they could easily jailbreak their phone and customize their rings to their heartsâ€™ content. In other words, we dismiss them because they are not like us. They are not stupid: many of them are successful CEOs, professors, architects, and so on, but their areas of expertise are not in information technology. But guess what? There are a lot of them and they spend a lot of money!
To be honest, I still donâ€™t get the one-button mouse thing. I figure since I have five fingers, why canâ€™t my mouse have five buttons? In fact, give me a mouse for each hand for a total of ten buttons. Or better yet, give me 101 buttons and a CLI, and remove that silly pointer thing. Still, I guess thereâ€™s a pretty successful product out there with only one button.
But Donâ€™t Be Dumb
So when it comes to thinking up product ideas, we have to â€œdumb-downâ€ our thinking a little bit. But how far? Thereâ€™s clearly a danger of going too far. My 92-year-old grandmother, as sharp as she is, doesnâ€™t know Perl, but neither is she about to go buy cloud-based music. Instead, letâ€™s fall back on every consumer-based marketerâ€™s go-to group: Lady Gaga fans, by which I mean 14-year-old girls. (Yes, Iâ€™m sure there are plenty of 14-year-old girls who are amazing programmers, but how many of them also listen to Lady Gaga?) Iâ€™m talking about the people who donâ€™t know Perl and donâ€™t ever want to learn Perl, but can text-message at the speed of light. They want their music, they want it now, and they only want to have to press one button to get it.
So whatâ€™s the take-away? Listen to Bad Romance more? Hang out with teenagers? No, we donâ€™t need to torture ourselves. But letâ€™s try to step away from our little world of command line prompts and Hypersnoot Transport Protocols and see what the paying consumer really wants â€“ simplicity, pretty colors, and a good beat that you can dance to.