Friday, September 12, 2008

Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated...

His Jobness could finally get a few good laughs about "his death" in the recent event in SF in which Apple announced few refreshed versions of its iPods for the Year-End Holiday season. I liked the Jobs picture shot with a gigantic iPod Touch in his hand by a smart Reuters photographer who knew exactly how to capture the moment. That's what photography is all about, innit?

Anyways, I only tried Genius and the iTunes Visualizations so far and upgraded my Touch to 2.1. I also ordered the new 16 GB Touch because I really miss some sound and space on mine (I got the first gen 8 GB); I don't mind the lack of a mike and a telephone function but some minimum level of sound is very much desirable.

The Genius seems pretty smart, I have to say. It's an all new experience. I actually rediscovered scores of forgotten songs hidden deep in my list of hundreds I didn't even know I had; it's worth the try for any owner of iTunes. Actually, you don't even need any iPod to enjoy this facility. All you need is iTunes to organize your music library. And, there are, I reckon, above 100 million people worldwide who do that. I say that speculatively because his Jobness claimed there are 65 million folks worldwide who maintain an Apple iTunes Store account with credit card details spread over 62 countries. Speculating that there are at least as many without any purchasing activity might not be such a crazy idea. I'd even say I might be at the low end of such a speculation. The iTunes store holds more than 3 million titles to sell from. These are astronomical stats. It has grown larger than Wal-Mart in the US in terms of total number of songs sold and is now the number one distributor, claimed El Jobso! How about that?

Anyways, back to Genius. I've got no clue how their (proprietary) algorithms work and even improve in time the quality of track selection, and I am sure they do (I could easily think of a few simple ways one can do that) but even in these early stages it seems to work just fine. You play a song from your library, any song, you press the Genius button, and... voila! There comes a selection of alike songs from your library. Genius bases this selection on genres, star rankings you may have given to your songs, number of times you played them, and I also strongly believe, the position of your songs in international ranking charts. I have observed that some tracks from any given CD, which happened to be international hits sometime in the past, are selected above other similar songs of same artist on same CD that didn't make it to the ranks (Top 10/20/50/100). To most people, hit songs sound 'better' on a randomly generated collection than any other songs.

This Genius trick works just fine directly on an iPod Touch as well. You drive your car, you are tired listening to the same stuff, so all you have to do, you select one of your favorite songs, hit the Genius button and start listening a collection of 25, 50 or 100 songs buried in your library. Like the collection? Save it on the fly and burn it on a CD later to share it with friends and enemies. Ain't that somethin'?

Finally, there's not much to say about visualizations other than Apple's are the most spectacular I ever seen in my life. Look even much cooler if you connect your Mac to a HDTV. Looks like you're discovering new worlds after... an exaggerated death... not?

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