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Wozniak wears period costume

Wozniak wears period costume

The recent statements by Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple on the death of the iPod have perplexed me. I had always held Steve in high esteem (Come on, and I still have it) but statements like these take me back to times of chervil and petticoat and they make me wonder if Woz has become one of those great marqueones who are respected for their past influence but who live anchored in the past (literally) and only talks about old glories. She is still the marchioness, mind you, and everyone listens to her, but tea will always be at 5 at her house… and the world, outside of her little universe, continues to work at a different pace.

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Announcing the death of the iPod is a bit risky. While it is true that his arguments are correct, his conclusions are wrong. Neither the portable radio nor the Walkman was a timeless success, mainly because both, in their particular view, break with the modern rule that “the user is the one in control“. The portable radio is not exactly an example of “control” by the user, since he is forced to choose a setting from a host of settings, but a setting after all. Radio doesn’t offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee because it simply can’t “make everyone happy”. Not at least specifically to each user.

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As for the Walkman, it was a step forward in terms of user control. However, the walkman, after his first moment of glory, fell for very obvious reasons:

  • Its closed environment allowed very few “expansions” beyond improving audio quality or adding features related to listening (radio) but not control.
  • Its poor interface (forward, back, play, pause) was not exactly the eighth wonder of the world, at least not to the growing desires of users
  • The contents were cumbersome (tapes), took up a lot of space and required prior work by the user (recording them) not to mention the financial outlay by the user to buy media.
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    For these reasons, among many others, the Walkman ended up falling into oblivion until some other device has taken over by offering a better user experience.

    At this point in the technological film, these comparisons are somewhat odious. They could be understood in context a few years ago when Apple launched the first (or second) generation of iPods, but now, when Apple is migrating its units under the covers to something more akin to an “ultraportable computer with a game console” (the iPod Touch), if Woz can’t see that device features are being extended beyond the most vulgar human desires, surpassing the limits that the portable radio or the Walkman had, then something is wrong. Very bad.

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    Nobody says that the iPod, one day, will not collapse under the weight of some new device, without a doubt. Reigns, by default, are always ephemeral, when we are able to forget something after a few months have passed, absorbed as we are in the maelstrom of current technology, but that fall will be against a more powerful rival. It will not be a matter of forgetting because of discomfort.

    In the same interview, Woz calls for the industry to “moderate” the tech race. This is really fascinating. Stop? because? and above all… for what? The technological race is not a matter of microchips and 20 years of history. The race for technological advantage began the day the first primate picked up a bone and used it. as advantage to prevail over its competitors. Since then, from that point in history, we have a technological career. And this technological race is what defines us as humans, for better and for worse, it is what has marked human evolution.

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    So Woz, I think this time they’re not going to pay much attention to you.