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Can Open Source Outdo the IPod?

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 9 years ago | from the open-source-is-the-answer dept.

Handhelds 484

CHaN_316 writes "Wired is running an article entitled, "Can Open Source Outdo the IPod?" Asking the open source community to help them compete with the iPod. From the article: 'Consumer electronics manufacturer Neuros Audio is tapping the open-source community to convert its upcoming portable media player from iPod road kill into a contender [...] To get the ball rolling, Neuros recently opened up the firmware code for its Neuros 442 portable media player, which is set to launch in January [...] Neuros' hardware design is complete, comprising a Texas Instruments dual-core digital signal processor, a 3.6-inch, 65,000-color TFT display and a 40-GB hard drive for recording video from a TV or home entertainment system. But the company has left a little something -- mostly user interface tweaks -- for the volunteers.' Is this a good idea or a mere publicity stunt?"

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Yes (5, Informative)

Phroggy (441) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936052)

Is this a good idea or a mere publicity stunt?

Why can't it be both?

Re:Yes (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13936094)

This [iriver.at] is a player.

Keep your iToy in its sock [apple.com] .

Re:Yes (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13936129)

Because a "mere publicity stunt" cannot be something more, by definition of the word "mere".

Column A, Column B (5, Insightful)

Alaren (682568) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936149)

"Is this a good idea or a mere publicity stunt?"

I concur with parent--this is probably both. The "publicity" you get from a stunt targeted largely at the open source community is probably going to be worth less than the overall benefits you will reap by open-sourcing your product, though.

That said, as nice a gesture as this is, the iPod is a lot more than just its firmware. That clickwheel interface is pretty amazing--I haven't used such an intuitive device interface in a long time. The other challenge they will face is getting content to their player. We've seen how frightenend the RI/MPAA is about letting users control (gasp!) their own devices.

But I guess if you're just selling a player, pirates are valuable as customers just like anyone else. I don't know, in the end I'm going to say this is a good thing, but more good in the "that's pretty cool" sense rather than the "this will change the industry!" sense.

Re:Yes (1)

op12 (830015) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936323)

It's all 3. (The third option is being lazy)

Re:Yes (0, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13936373)

he did say "or", not "xor"
so he doesn't exclude both :p

Synergy (5, Insightful)

Space cowboy (13680) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936058)

Why is it that people don't "get" this - it's not sufficient now to simply make an MP3 player that "does more", or even is as easy to use as an Ipod. You need the whole shebang - the store, the presence on the desktop, the device itself, the ease of transfer between computer and device, the chic design, and good marketing/PR. Hell, there's probably loads more too.

Apple have a history (and therefore a lot of expertise) in "doing it all". They design their own hardware, write their own OS (*), develop their own apps, do their own marketing (the 'reality distortion field' effect :-). They do it all, just to make the whole experience as unified and simple for the end-user as possible. They grok synergy.

Coming up with an ipod-killer that could make *coffee* (+) wouldn't break the grip of Apple on this market now - it'll take a multi-vectored attack to shake their dominance, and no open-source project has the resources that Apple have in the focus areas that are needed. Open-source has manpower and skill, not billions of dollars in the bank. Apple have a fair amount of manpower and skill too...

I think Neuros will gain *some* benefit from this - it's a positive move for some people, but they're still fighting over the scraps in the remaining 10-20 percent of the market that *haven't* converted to Apple yet. Also it's cool to have legitimate access to something like this - I'm sure the OS community will come up with more uses for the Neuros device than Neuros ever thought of. I'm not *against* Neuros, I just don't think it's a disruptive idea.


(*) Yes, I'm aware that they didn't completely design the OS, but they have contributed a good portion of it, and most of that in the user-visible areas.

(+) Yes, I'm aware that making coffee wouldn't be a useful ipod feature - think of the leakage - but I'm making the point that features alone aren't as valuable as they were when the market was nascent.

Re:Synergy (5, Insightful)

DrEldarion (114072) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936115)

More than anything, I think it's about the marketing. Apple did what nobody else was able to do - they made having an MP3 player cool. Once the iPod came out, MP3 players went from strictly being geek toys to being something that EVERYONE wanted.

Re:Synergy (2, Interesting)

Scruffeh (867141) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936223)

It's white and looks like a tiny fridge, what more could anyone want? Even if someone came up with a better UI with more features the iPod would win because it looks cool and does exactly what it's supposed to

Re:Synergy (3, Funny)

op12 (830015) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936372)

Who doesn't want to turn into one of those dancing shadows? Seriously, it was a powerful part of defining the iPod as "cool"

offtopic- (0, Offtopic)

conJunk (779958) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936122)

I know this is offtopic, but this post gave me thought... I'm thinking back to the first MacWorld expo I went to in 1995, roughly around the time apple was playing around with liscencing for powermac clones...

if you'd told me then apple was going to start kicking ass with a portable music player, i would have laughed *really* hard

Re:Synergy (1)

daviddennis (10926) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936130)

Don't forget that the iPod is a much-loved device thanks to the carefully-crafted synergy between hardware and software.

I have yet to see an open-source project that has a design comparable to an iPod or even MacOS X. Until I see one, the announcement, however well-meaning, is a bit of a non-starter when it comes to design.


Re:Synergy (1)

OreoCookie (814421) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936157)

Apple have a history (and therefore a lot of expertise) in "doing it all". They design their own hardware, write their own OS (*), develop their own apps, do their own marketing (the 'reality distortion field' effect :-). They do it all, just to make the whole experience as unified and simple for the end-user as possible. They grok synergy.

So the thing that makes MS bad:( is what makes Apple good:)
Now I understand. Thank you.

Re:Synergy (1)

Randall Shane (320595) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936271)

So the thing that makes MS bad:( is what makes Apple good:)
Now I understand. Thank you.

No, the thing that makes MS bad is what makes Apple successful.

So OS cannot compete versus a good Company? (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936265)

Your reply is summarized as such, Open Source cannot hope to compete against any corporate interest which is competent.

Sorry, if everyone rolled over liked that the OS movement would never have gotten off the ground. They are countless people who would make the same glorification posts about Microsoft but that did not stop those who thought otherwise.

I have an iPod but I know damn well its not the end all of MP3 players. iTunes has its share of annoyances. The difference is that fanboi support of Apple is considered acceptable regardless of nature.

iPods making coffee (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13936331)

Of course, if iPods could make coffee you still wouldn't be able to change the filter without sending it back to Apple and waiting 3-4 weeks.

You Almost Got It. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13936348)

Boy, you came so close to "getting it" and then you missed it. You are absolutely right on all counts, Apple has sewn up the market by providing top notch end-to-end product. No one will be able to do a better overall product.

But, Apple charges a pretty penny for their product and the consumer market has clearly shown that it has no loyalty when it comes to price. That means that if someone produces a comparable or almost comparable product but, at a significantly lower price than Apple's, people will by the cheaper product in large volumes. Apple may not be forced out of the market, but they will be forced to share the market. There is money to be made from iPod knockoffs! The problem is that there are hundreds of iPod knockoffs already and the field is growing daily. In fact I expect to see counterfeit iPods in the near future, if they don't already exist.

Can Open Source Outdo the IPod? (1, Troll)

Chocolate Teapot (639869) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936059)

No! So stop asking fucking stupid questions!

Re: Can Open Source Outdo the IPod? (0, Offtopic)

varmittang (849469) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936087)

But I thought there was no stupid questions. Is there?

Re: Can Open Source Outdo the IPod? (0, Offtopic)

P3NIS_CLEAVER (860022) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936132)

Yes. Stop being so goddam PC.

Re: Can Open Source Outdo the IPod? (1)

varmittang (849469) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936193)

These, Tom, are your cause-heads. They find a world-threatening issue and stick with it... for about a week.

Re: Can Open Source Outdo the IPod? (1)

SomeGuyTyping (751195) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936242)

Free Nelson Mandela!

Re: Can Open Source Outdo the IPod? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13936158)

Look! There's one now! (points to parent)

Ha ha ha! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13936351)

I guess that's what happens when the /. mods fall under the spell of Open Souurce. Thay lose their sense of humor.

Postes firstes (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13936060)

This is a wicked cool first post

Translation (5, Funny)

conner_bw (120497) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936061)

iPod makes millions of dollars and we'd like to make millions of dollars too? Can you help us? We promise not to pay you.

Re:Translation (1)

Tiger4 (840741) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936196)

"We promise not to pay you."

At last, a corporate promise I can take to the bank!

Re:Translation (5, Funny)

Overly Critical Guy (663429) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936221)

In an office somewhere in Cupertino, Steve Jobs read about this in one of his many memos, laughed, farted, and went to go have lunch with Yo-Yo Ma.

Short answer to article question: NO.

Re:Translation (4, Insightful)

guitaristx (791223) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936301)

As funny as the parent is, it's a sad truth. Most people who look at the open source community don't understand that open-source programming pays the bills for some people. If Neuros wants open-source components for their media player, and want it under a specific timeline, they have a few choices (notice that their current behavior is not listed):
  • Write it themselves, and open-source it.
  • Pay someone to write it, and open-source it.
  • Hope that someone in the software community writes a near-enough piece of software that can be made to work with their media player inside the time frame that they're looking for....(wait for it)
    and open-sources it.
For some reason, some people still seem to have the idea that open-source development is free.

Everyone, repeat after me:
Open-Source Software does not cost money.
Open-Source Software development does cost money.

Apple treats users like babies (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13936064)

You can't record decent quality audio (8khz!), and you still can't play Ogg Vorbis or FLAC. They've obviously got enough power to do that now.

Re:Apple treats users like babies (1)

P3NIS_CLEAVER (860022) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936174)

yeah, but alot of people out there are into the diaper thing.

Can open source Out Do ANYTHING? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13936067)


Re:Can open source Out Do ANYTHING? (1)

TheComputerMutt.ca (907022) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936135)

Yes, because Internet Explorer is so much better than Firefox. [/sarcasm]

Re:Can open source Out Do ANYTHING? (0, Offtopic)

baadger (764884) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936222)

Fear not the great uncleansed will be impressed with IE7. You may even be surprised how many firefox users it pulls back...

More "Skins" (4, Insightful)

MLopat (848735) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936068)

Oh great, just what we all needed more skins for a media player. That's essentially what this project amounts to.

Re:More "Skins" (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13936100)

"We'll do all the features, then we'll let the open-source community do the UI & polish. They just *ROCK* at that stuff."

Re:More "Skins" (1)

chreekat (467943) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936316)

If by 'skins' you mean give input into the hardware design or hack the firmware (like you can hack Linux), then yeah, it just amounts to skinning.

Publicity (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13936071)

Merely an attempt to try to profit from other peoples work.

PR (2, Interesting)

gtrubetskoy (734033) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936072)

From TFA "Most open-source projects do fail because they typically don't have full-time employees, but only a few volunteers who a lot of times are kids," Born [the CEO] said.

... and some CEO's need to grow up, I'll be off to buy a nano, which works without the "help from the open source community" (who are mostly kids, mind you).

My guess is this article is just some paid (and poor quality) PR. Read this [paulgraham.com] to learn more about how these articles end up published.

Re:PR (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13936213)

Born is simply a vary vocal, involved executive. He hangs out in the IRC chat room with Neuros firmware hackers and those looking for support, he posts on the Neuros forums, and he provides dozens of quotes for articles relating to Neuros. Any article about any product is PR, don't confuse that with Born's involvement.

By the way, Slashdot's sister site Newsforge also covered Neuros' OSS strategy. http://software.newsforge.com/article.pl?sid=05/09 /13/1631226&from=rss [newsforge.com]

Re:PR (3, Informative)

Valafar (309028) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936292)

I'd say that's a pretty poor guess. Neuros has a history of "open source" with their media players. A few years ago they released the source code for their Neuros Syncronization Manager NSM [sourceforge.net] . Their first generation player was pretty crappy in terms of hardware (FM transmitter didn't work right, only had a USB 1.1 (ugh!) interface) and the NSM software was kind of bunk; However they've had firm-ware updates for a while that support OGG and it's pretty interesting that a company is actually make a portable media player that they are encouraging (and supporting!) geek to hack (sounds like material for MAKE [makezine.com] ). I think that's a pretty post-modern (and refreshing) idea in a world where we're constantly assaulted with legal threats, DRM, etc.

Don't be so quick to judge something based on a partial quote from a magazine article. Besides, he's technically right about open-source projects. Taking a look at source-forge there are at least 100 projects that are dead for every one that is active, whether they were started by "kids" or not.

Anyway... Look a little closer at the project; there's some interesting stuff going on there.

I can make this easy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13936074)


nice (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13936081)

looks more like a digital camera than an mp3 player though

Damn good idea (4, Interesting)

COMON$ (806135) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936095)

While I do own an IPod, I would drop it in an instant if I could have a nice open source digital music player that I wouldnt be forced to use one program for itunes. Perhaps if sucessfull this will start a new trend in digital phones, blackberries, PDAs, or any other portable device.

Re:Damn good idea (1)

NaruVonWilkins (844204) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936166)

You're forced to use one program? Have you actually opened up the thing in Windows as a storage device?

Re:Damn good idea (1)

COMON$ (806135) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936210)

Yes, but havent created playlists, put my ogg files on or anything useful.

Re:Damn good idea (1)

The Ancients (626689) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936231)

While I do own an IPod, I would drop it in an instant

but then it would be all scratched and stuff...and...and...

Oops - I think I'm missing the point :p

Re:Damn good idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13936261)

I'll trade you my Neuros II for your iPod. I got the Neuros because it supported OGG and I could get NDBM (open-source software a heck of a lot better for syncing than the NSM that came with it). It looked a lot better than my old Archos Jukebox Recorder, too. But Neuros seems to have been plagued with manufacturing difficulties, as many cranky postings to their message boards suggest, and now that my Neuros has quit working I have to agree. Any non-iPod will really have too small of a user base to make any great leaps in the software (even NDBM doesn't pull my music in from iTunes the way I'd like -- lots of stuff gets lost under "Various Artists"). I give them a lot of credit for their openness (they also published the schematics for the Neuros II), but the fact is that the only iPod killer is the next iPod to come along. If I had Windows XP (or if I knew I'd buy a Mac three months after I bought my Neuros) I would have bought an iPod in the first place.

Re:Damn good idea (1)

courtarro (786894) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936378)

If your main beef is getting rid of iTunes and you're willing to use Winamp instead, look no further than ml_iPod, which allows the iPod to show up as a 'device' in the Winamp media library. Just drag to and from it, or sync with your library collection. Get it here: http://mlipod.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net] - I've been using it since I got my iPod about a year ago, and I've loved it since.

Yes... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13936110)

Just like how open source has "outdone" Microsoft by luring a whopping 5% of its users away.

The answer is simple. (1)

Orrin Bloquy (898571) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936113)

() Yes
() No
() CowboyNeal

Re:The answer is simple. (1, Funny)

J_Darnley (918721) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936160)

( ) Yes
( ) No
(x) CowboyNeal

Even if... (5, Insightful)

CupBeEmpty (720791) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936118)

...it is a publicity stunt I don't mind. We could use more publicity stunts like this.

Open source UIs (5, Interesting)

jfengel (409917) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936120)

Most of the time, open source UIs are worse than their commercial brethren because they lack a cogent, coherent tack. You can't win just by adding features. An iPod does exactly, precisely what it should do and not a single thing more.

I can think of a few examples of really brilliant open-source UIs: Firefox and Eclipse come to mind. So it's not impossible. But in those cases the amazingly solid core UI was developed by key players, and other developers contributed functionality.

So I'm gonna guess that the answer in this case is "almost certainly not".

Yes it does. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13936274)

An iPod does exactly, precisely what it should do and not a single thing more.

It does exactly one thing more than it should: promote acceptance of DRM [apple.com] in peoples minds.

Re:Yes it does. (1)

Infernal Device (865066) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936379)

I think DRM will win in the end - why? The people pushing are willing to put their money where there mouth is. They are buying the politicians, etc., and doing the work necessary to make DRM acceptable - something that the opposition isn't doing.

Yes, it sucks. The people who believe they'll see justice because they're right need to grow up and start playing the game. Buy your politicians just like everyone else.

Open source on a PMP - Done (0, Offtopic)

JediLow (831100) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936124)

I've already been using open source on my iRiver - and I can tell you, it completely wipes the floor with the ipod - the only problem? The player that I have looks like an ugly box. http://www.rockbox.org [rockbox.org]

Re:Open source on a PMP - Done (1)

Vaevictis666 (680137) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936243)

FYI, Neuros is working directly with Rockbox on the Neuros 3, which is supposed to be launching sometime after the 442. N3 is a dedicated audio player, whereas the 442 is more meant to be a full-on multimedia device for videos etc.

Re:Open source on a iRiver h-120 - Done (1)

belly917 (928006) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936338)

Rockbox was originaly started as an opensource replacement to a lacking firmware on the Archos series of MP3 players.

The rockbox team then got their hands on the Iriver h-120 & 140 and decided to port rockbox to these players (what I currently own). iRiver h-120 owners will never hesitate to tell you that the iriver is far superior to an iPod in audio quality and features, but the included firmware was severly lacking. Rockbox filled this void.

Rockbox has not had an offical release yet for the iriver, but it is a great example of how open source project can create a great product or fill a void. (All of us are running very stable beta versions)

But, many of us have been waiting patiently as development has been slow. All of the developers do this work in their spare time, therefore this isn't the best business model. And as most of you have probably never heard of Rockbox, this business model obviously is not going to be a iPod killer.

Rockbox made my digital audio player complete.. so complete that I would never consider purchasing a ipoo.

Re:Open source on a PMP - Done (2, Insightful)

Paul Slocum (598127) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936347)

I love Rockbox, but it has a lot of shortcomings. Although it has tons of great features, as is, it wouldn't stand a chance against the iPod IMO. Aside from being way behind and still not supporting some of the most basic iRiver features (like recording), the user interface is terribly sloppy in a lot of areas. It took a lot of hassling and arguing just to get them to do away with the painfully slow "read as you go" directory handling. The interface is improving, but it's a got a long way. Fortunately they're writing it so that it can easily be ported to other devices.

The primary problem is that open source developers design their UIs from a stubborn programmers "least common denominator" philosophy. They have to look up the word "intuitive" if you mention it. It takes a lot of arguing to convince them of the most basic User Interface 101 pricipals.

Not likely (5, Insightful)

phpm0nkey (768038) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936136)

Two features make the iPod a killer app for me: the scroll wheel, and smart playlists.

Simple as it may seem, the scroll wheel is possibly the most ingenious user interface mechanism of the past 10 years. I can pull up a list of 500 artists on my iPod and navigate to any one in a matter of seconds. Apple's patent on this design virtually ensures that every "iPod killer" will end up as "roadkill".

iTunes, on the other hand, can be copied. Apple's player is great at managing very large music libraries (10,000+ songs). Apple's Smart Playlists are as close as any software gets to letting me run SQL queries on my music library to generate playlists. I form playlists based on the play count and rating. So far, I haven't found any other music library manager that lets me get this specific, this granular with my collection.

Re:Not likely (3, Interesting)

DrEldarion (114072) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936252)

What? I have a Dell DJ that came with a scroll wheel and also has intelligent playlists. I can pull up by artist, album, genre, etc.

The black/silver/blue glow is also sexier than an iPod, IMO, but that's just a matter of taste.

Re:Not likely (3, Insightful)

Tsiangkun (746511) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936382)

Can you have a playlist of all songs in your library, over 2 minutes and under 5 minutes, by an artist with a name containing a 'Q', rated over four stars, in the dance genre or the hip hop genre, that haven't been played in over two weeks and have been played more than 27 times, with a bitrate over 96kHz, added to the library after June of 2004 ?

This is what I think makes iTunes + iPod the best, being able to manage a large music collection in very powerful ways, with ease.

Re:Not likely (1)

normal_guy (676813) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936291)

You said it all brother. I keep wishing someone would come and knock Apple off the high ground, or at least give them a run for their money. Media Player is clunky, and Winamp et al rely on the filesystem way too much. iTunes has it all on the desktop. iPod holds all of those tunes and lets you interface it with a scroll wheel. Nothing else compares.

scroll wheel...brilliant? Sorry, it's a pain. (5, Insightful)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936298)

I can pull up a list of 500 artists on my iPod and navigate to any one in a matter of seconds.

Funny- I find it takes 5, 10, 15, 20 seconds of:

  1. Start scrolling rubbing my thumb around the wheel
  2. It's not going fast enough down the list, so try to scroll faster
  3. iPod's "scroll acceleration" kicks in. A second or two later, I'm at the end of the list.
  4. Cuss.
  5. Go to step 1.

Ever tried to change the star rating for a song? It's far too sensitive.

Ever tried to switch off your iPod by holding play down- but slide your finger ever so slightly, so the iPod thinks it's a scroll and completely ignores the button press?

Sorry. I liked the scroll-wheel-plus-4-buttons MUCH better. Apple's current design is the equivalent of iDrive, wherein they try to accomplish too much with one control. Same goes for the stick control on Sony Ericsson phones...I can't believe how many times I try to push DOWN on the stick only to have it go to the SIDE...

Also, I'm pretty sure the Slashdot Groupthink doesn't like patents. The concept of turning something to select from a list is about as old as the first radios.

Re:Not likely (1)

CDPatten (907182) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936326)

Apple doesn't own the scroll wheel technology, Synaptics does (http://www.synaptics.com/ [synaptics.com] ).

http://news.com.com/2010-1041_3-5375101.html [com.com]

This is part of the genius of Steve Jobs. He is better then anyone for taking credit for someone else's ideas. Really worse then MS, just doesn't have as big of a company.

Anyways, interestingly enough, according to you, apple's biggest selling point isn't really apples'.

Re:Not likely (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13936353)

If you want even more control and actual SQL queries for dynamic playlists, check out MusikCube (http://www.musikcube.com/ [musikcube.com] ). The interface is decent, not quite as intuitive as iTunes but better than any other PC music manager / player I've found yet.

Re:Not likely (1)

rm999 (775449) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936365)

I also love the scrollwheel, but i find it to be kind of slow in large lists.

I thought of another idea that may be a little more expensive to implement. It would be a touchscreen (like a pda). Instead of scrolling through a list of 3000 songs for a specific song, you could write the first couple of letters onto the screen (maybe like palm's graffitti) which would filter out most of the songs. You could even do searches (like type in gre and it would show you green day songs as well as songs from an album called grenadine). You could also use the touchscreen as a scrollwheel once the list is shortened, and simply click on the song you want to play.

musikCube (1)

Indecision1977 (922200) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936375)

Apple's Smart Playlists are as close as any software gets to letting me run SQL queries on my music library to generate playlists.

Musikcube [musikcube.com] is an open source music library that does let you run SQL queries to generate playlists. It also supports plugins to support any file format, and for added functionality.

Re:Not likely (1)

sydb (176695) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936386)

Explain how the scroll wheel is so special. I have a Rio Karma. It has a scroll wheel. It's not a touch-sensitive circle on the front panel, it's an actual wheel, but it performs the same function, scrolling. So how is the scroll wheel so critical to the iPod's success? Or maybe it's not the scroll wheel you mean.

Explain what is so specific and granular about a mechanism that lets you build playlists based on play count and rating. My Karma lets me choose individual tracks from individual albums! I don't see how it could get any more specific and granular. Or maybe it's not the specificity and the granularity that you mean.

What do you mean?

I don't have an iPod; I've played with other peoples'. I'm no expert on these smart playlists, but the Rio Digital DJ will ,make playlists based on 'popularity', genre, era, etc. I also know the Karma is for all intents dead, I know it's ugly compared to the iPod, and I know it's not got a cool name. But that's not the point.

The best thing about the iPod is the marketing: the iPod name, the clean looks, the slimness, iTunes, the adverts, the white earphones, the Apple name. I believe its called synergy, or "pulling the wool over the customer's eyes".

Way to miss the point.... (5, Insightful)

Evangelion (2145) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936146)

The iPod is successful NOT because of technology, or nifty programming tricks, or being able to play every free codec in existence, or what have you.

It's successful because it's stylish, because it's simple to use, and because -- and this is the only reason I use mine instead of having it sit in the junk drawer with my last 2 mp3 players -- because the software you use (iTunes) to sync with the device is USEFUL in it's own right.

Really, the key for devices like this is how well the software on the host device works. iTunes is good enough that I was using it to manage my music before I even had an iPod. Does it do everything under the sun like foobar2000 (which is what I was using before iTunes)? No. But it does the core tasks well enough that I find it very useful.

The usefulness or lack there of of the host software is going to determine how useful the Neuros product is. If it shows up as a drive, and they expect me to "manage" my music or video by copying over music out from underneath my music management software manually, I'm sorry, but it loses.

Re:Way to miss the point.... (1)

DJCacophony (832334) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936289)

If it shows up as a drive, and they expect me to "manage" my music or video by copying over music out from underneath my music management software manually, I'm sorry, but it loses.
Some people prefer this level of control and granularity instead of the idiot approach. Plus if it shows up as a drive you can drag and drop your latest powerpoint presentation to it and tote it around easily.

Re:Way to miss the point.... (1)

P3NIS_CLEAVER (860022) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936297)

No, you missed the point. They put a little bit of Jobs reality distortion field in each one.

It wont be any hardware... (3, Insightful)

CaptScarlet22 (585291) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936152)

Until the iTunes music store is wiped off the face of the earth, the IPod will remain supreme.

If you want to buy songs from the iTunes music store, you need an IPod...

Plain and simple.

Open Source will never change that.

Re:It wont be any hardware... (1)

DJCacophony (832334) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936332)

No, you can just buy from the itunes store and transfer it to whatever mp3 player you use, because Apple made the store compatible with other peoples products.
  Oh wait...

getting started? (1)

ameoba (173803) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936162)

It's an interesting idea but how do you get developers to work on the system when they'll have to have the hardware to do any real work on it. Paying $400 for a half-finished device so that I can do free work on it does not sound like it's going to attract a whole lot of people to the project...

I don't get it. (1)

TheOtherAgentM (700696) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936167)

If companies that aren't open source can't do it, what's the draw for this? I'm happy with the iPod's interface. Even if you could make it better with a community behind it, Apple's still holding the key to the media, it's iTunes store.

Ogg Vorbis support (1)

sonoluminescence (709395) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936186)

Doesn't play ogg, I'm not getting one.

Re:Ogg Vorbis support (1)

clutch110 (528473) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936303)

Well, now all we need is a "Doesn't play Ogg Theora, I'm not getting one" troll.

Yay for trolls!

It's not that easy (2, Insightful)

countach (534280) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936187)

It's not just a matter any more of coming up with a better ipod than ipod. You've also got to come up with a better iTunes than iTunes. You've got to open a music store. You've got to have all the accessories that iPod has. You've got to have the distribution channels and the brand awareness that Apple now has. You've got to have the economies of scale to buy components cheaply that Apple has so you can sell it at a reasonable price.

Oh yeah, and building a better iPod than iPod isn't that easy either.

UI (3, Insightful)

Doyle (620849) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936194)

But the company has left a little something -- mostly user interface tweaks -- for the volunteers

From most of the OSS projects I've seen, the UI is the last thing I'd let them tweak. ;)

Repeat after me... (1)

PhineusJWhoopee (926130) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936200)

The iPod is all about the *hardware design* and *marketing*. Hardware design might benefit from open-source, but I can't see how (nb: talking hardware, not firmware or software). ed

OSS developers vs. general public (3, Insightful)

G4from128k (686170) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936201)

I'm sure OSS can create some extremely clever UI and firmware features, but that's not what's needed. The answer to the ipod killer question is "yes" only if OSS developers somehow understand and implement the wishes of the broader iPod-loving populace. If they create an iPod with a vi or emacs-style interface, the unit will be loved by geeks and hated by 98% of the general public.

Who's ready to grep their music?

who's ready to grep their music? (1)

icefaerie (827772) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936340)

Me! Me! Grepping music would be awesome, especially if you could grep for lyrics or some such. [I know I can find lyrics pretty readily through google, but lyrics for some of the more obscure songs I own are difficult to find.]

Hum (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13936203)

Why would open source want to out do the iPod? its just a music player, what this looks like is a PDA trying to be a music player when a PDA is really much more useful. If someone can stick a decent amount of memory into a phone, give it some decent hardware and not make it cost the earth or leave a lump in your pocket then they will have created a killer device. The iPod just can't be beaten for its shear Appleness in design.

This will only work IF (1)

drakethegreat (832715) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936206)

The open source developers they do get are QUALIFIED and don't just clone the iPod or creative interfaces. So more brains are required then that of a project like KDE. My personal opinion is that open source people are better at OS programming then GUIs but I may be wrong. Prove me wrong infact.

The other thing worth mentioning is about PR. Even with a good interface it would take a lot of press to have it become anything more then a device just for geeks. Remember Apple's biggest market isn't the video iPod but rather the nano/mini one that is for smaller devices that don't need to play video.

UI design (4, Interesting)

ThaFooz (900535) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936208)

is the open source community's biggest weakness. I don't see a group whose expertise does not include consistency and documentation working for free to save a clunky device which offers no price/performance advantage over the iPod (a $365 price tag).

Steve's Big Mistake: Greed. (2, Interesting)

CDPatten (907182) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936230)

the iPod is just a cool trend. It won't last forever. Open Source, Creative, Sony, and others will all eventually catch up, and pass apple.

There is nothing incredibly brilliant about the iPod software, its the hardware that make it a top seller. Like most things, it will only be a matter of time before Steve Job's greed and closed circuit mentality has them loose market share. We saw it with the Apple hardware, their OS, and we will see it happen with the iPod.

We have already started to see it with the iTunes store, the iPod's "enabler" or "dealer" has made some pretty big missteps. Steve is pissing off the owners of the music he sells (talking bad about them in the press over and over is a big mistake), and they are ACTIVELY looking to others to replace him. He is giving them money now, but others can do that, all he has done is effectively made enemies of the companies he relies on to make the iPod a success.

There is no doubt, Open Source WILL be a player in unseating the iPod. Not the only player, but a contributor.

Re:Steve's Big Mistake: Greed. (5, Insightful)

colin_n (50370) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936319)

I think that Steve jobs is not motivated by greed. He is motivated by ideals. Steve Jobs wants to create the best "widget" (replace widget with Computer, Portable Audio Player, Animated Movies) and this is demonstrated by Pixar creating a movie a year whereas Dreamworks is churning them out. Steve Jobs wants his products to be the best...

Re:Steve's Big Mistake: Greed. (1)

DJCacophony (832334) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936383)

If I could make a mistake that netted me millions (if not billions) of dollars profit with no negative consequences whatsoever, then I'd be all for it.

No, but there's still hope... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13936246)

Something like the iPod needs a coherent end-to-end solution; iTunes Music store - iTunes - iPod. It isn't just the device that makes the iPod great, it's the whole package. Open source simply can't supply that in its entirity.

If open source wants to start winning in a market sector, it needs to start on home ground - like computing - rather than jumping into a consumer electronics segment dominated by one device. Remember that even Creative are having a tough time competing against the iPod. We've seen Linux devices go after PDAs, handheld and games consoles in the past and they didn't fare well at all. The only saving grace is probably the use of Linux in phones, which seems to be its ideal area right now.

In all honesty, it's probably worth doing what Microsoft have done with PocketPC and Windows Media players; publish a base hardware spec that the software runs on and have done with it, then let the builders choose how to implement it in hardware.

OS.. To The Rescue! (1)

inkdesign (7389) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936267)

We need a Superman emblem with "OS" on it for stories like this.

Anyways, the ipod is a sucess because of adoption by the mainstream crowd, and they are not concerned about how "open" the device is. Opening your firmware is great, but work on making your next device the ipod killer, and don't expect a community to make it happen for you after the fact.

API (1)

jmkaza (173878) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936309)

I think the most important thing, with an open source UI, is to allow plugins/extensions. From the day I got my iPod, I wanted the ability to add in a way to queue the next songs to be played. In the time since, I've thought of a dozen easy ways to use existing controls to do it without affecting any current UI operations, but Apple hasn't released an open API that allows users to tweak their system.

What are they trying to attack? (2, Interesting)

chia_monkey (593501) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936328)

The iPod, obviously. But what exactly are they going after? The interface? That's it? Whoopty do. When the iPod first came out, there were bunches of mp3 players on the market. People thought the iPod was too expensive and thus would fail. Yet here we are now. Why did it succeed? Simple use (an Apple hallmark), iTunes was amazingly easy to use (an Apple hallmark), but mainly because iTunes had the support of the major labels while no other service really did. So why would a MAINSTREAM consumer buy anything but an iPod? They have more LEGAL music choices and something easy to use. Here we are now with the iPod and iTunes dominating the market. Competitors tried fighting on price (both with player and song). That didn't work. They tried fighting with design. Nope. So just how in the hell do they think they'll win over Average Joe consumer and his three kids on an open source product that may change with each revision? Plus...I think with Apple adding video to both iTunes and the iPod pretty much sealed the fate of all the competitors.

"Hardware design is complete?" (2, Informative)

14erCleaner (745600) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936341)

Boy, I don't know where Wired got their info (or how long ago), but the Neuros 442 is not just "designed", but has been in the hands of (test) customers since early September. Look here [neurosaudio.com] if you're curious. You can buy one today if you're interested.

Also, Digital Innovations has been open with their source code since their original Neuros audio player. Unfortunately, the code for that player had to be compiled with a proprietary DSP compiler.

Personally, my Neuros just died last month, and I really miss it, but I decided to go with an iPod to replace it, mainly because DI didn't really have a direct replacement available. The 442 is physically bigger, has a smaller HD, and costs the same as the largest iPod now available, plus you can't buy accessories at every store in the world like with an iPod. Neuros did support Ogg Vorbis, and had several features better than Apple did (like FM transmitter built-in, presets, and some nice third-party open-source sync software). But it's hard to be counterculture all the time; all I really want to do is listen to my music on the go, not fight a culture war. Pity...

I wouldn't buy a $400 ipod either (1)

humina (603463) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936364)

The device will cost $400. I don't want to buy a $400 mp3 player. I think that will be the biggest roadblock rather than how open source it is. To compete they need to be cheaper.

"Hacker" (1)

guitaristx (791223) | more than 9 years ago | (#13936374)

I'm glad that the Wired article uses the term "hacker" appropriately [catb.org] ...

They may get stuff they didn't intend (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#13936391)

There are a small number of hardware hackers who do things like using a GameBoy as the basis for their electronic projects. It is way cheaper than trying to build something from parts especially if you buy one used.

With the above in mind, this could lead to a totally unexpected and potentially profitable use for this device.
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