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Handhelds Hardware

Can Open Source Outdo the IPod? 484

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the open-source-is-the-answer dept.
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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Can Open Source Outdo the IPod?

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  • Yes (Score:5, Informative)

    by Phroggy (441) * <slashdot3 AT phroggy DOT com> on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @06:18PM (#13936052) Homepage
    Is this a good idea or a mere publicity stunt?

    Why can't it be both?
    • Dupe! (Score:5, Informative)

      by prof_peabody (741865) on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @06:23PM (#13936106)
      Was reported a couple of weeks ago:

      http://hardware.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=05/10/ 19/012249&tid=100 [slashdot.org]

      More useful links not included in summary:

      http://www.theneuros.com/index.php/Category_Roadma p:Neuros_III [theneuros.com]

    • Column A, Column B (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Alaren (682568) on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @06:26PM (#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.

      • by chmod u+s (211367)

        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

        I suppose I am the only person in the whole world who finds the ipod physical interface totally "the suck" and the software unintuitive. I thought the original jog wheels were cool just because they were retro, smooth and elegant - but the whole rub your finger around a touchpad? weak! Is it a button? is it

    • by op12 (830015)
      It's all 3. (The third option is being lazy)
    • Re:Yes (Score:4, Insightful)

      by nihilogos (87025) on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @07:46PM (#13936840)
      Why can't it be both?

      I think one of the first rules of journalism is to introduce false dilemmas whereever possible. I think the reasoning goes as follows

      1. Introduce false dilemma.
      2. Polarize the public, creating tension and anxiety.
      3. ???
      4. Profit.

      It is also used widely by politicians, e.g. "You're either with us or against us", who I think employ identical reasoning.
      • Re:Yes (Score:5, Informative)

        by Jonny_eh (765306) on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @08:46PM (#13937297)
        What you refer to, is known in the philosophical community as a False Dichotomy [wikipedia.org].

        Snip:
        "The logical fallacy of false dilemma, which is also known as fallacy of the excluded middle, false dichotomy, either/or dilemma or bifurcation, involves a situation in which two alternative points of view are held to be the only options, when in reality there exist one or more alternate options which have not been considered."
  • Synergy (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Space cowboy (13680) * on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @06:19PM (#13936058) Journal

    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.

    Simon.

    (*) 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 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by DrEldarion (114072) on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @06:24PM (#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 (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Scruffeh (867141)
        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 (Score:4, Funny)

        by op12 (830015) on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @06:46PM (#13936372) Homepage
        Who doesn't want to turn into one of those dancing shadows? Seriously, it was a powerful part of defining the iPod as "cool"
      • Re:Synergy (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Otter (3800) on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @06:55PM (#13936462) Journal
        Apple did what nobody else was able to do - they made having an MP3 player cool.

        Neuros players are "cool", too -- for people who think tinkering with your MP3 player is fun. For the market of people who want to be following message boards and constantly updating their firmware, it's the best thing there is. It's silly to think, though, that that market has much room for growth.

        For my part, I've been moving away from Linux and more and more onto OS X because I'm tired of needing to treat having a working computer as a hobby. The last thing I needed from an MP3 player is a *new* hobby.

        • Please mod this up.

          I had a horrible time getting my player to work, and eventually got rid of it.

          I want my player to be an appliance that "just works", not a hacker's fest where I get to debug beta hardware and software, and if i'm lucky, i get to hear some music.
        • Neuros players are "cool", too -- for people who think tinkering with your MP3 player is fun.

          Great. I hope both of them have a good time.

          For my part, I've been moving away from Linux and more and more onto OS X because I'm tired of needing to treat having a working computer as a hobby. The last thing I needed from an MP3 player is a *new* hobby.

          The only reason that Linux would become a hobby is if you felt a need to update things that don't need updating continually. Similarly, I have a hacked

          • Re:Synergy (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Senjutsu (614542)
            The only reason that Linux would become a hobby is if you felt a need to update things that don't need updating continually. Similarly, I have a hacked Xbox and the version of XBMC I have on the thing is like a year old, but it works just fine and I haven't been having problems with it. This player with some [working] OSS on it would be the same story.

            Or until one of the bugs in the perpetually-in-beta desktop environments, graphics drivers, media players, office suites, email clients et al bites you in t
        • Re:Synergy (Score:3, Informative)

          by bogie (31020)
          "For the market of people who want to be following message boards and constantly updating their firmware, it's the best thing there is."

          Uhh have you ever been to an Ipod message board? Talk about constant firmware updating...Any ipod board and especially the apple discussions one is chock full of obsessive Ipod users wondering if the newest firmware does xxxx. Hell, what did we have? Like 4 revs of Itunes in one month? Talk about haveing to constantly tweak, maintain and follow you mp3 player. At this point
          • Re:Synergy (Score:5, Insightful)

            by another_mr_lizard (608713) on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @07:41PM (#13936806) Homepage
            Uhh have you ever been to an Ipod message board?

            The thing is, most iPod users have never been on an iPod message board....
          • Re:Synergy (Score:3, Insightful)

            by sco08y (615665)
            Uhh have you ever been to an Ipod message board? Talk about constant firmware updating...

            On the Mac, Software Update grabs the latest iPod firmware updates automatically. Not sure how it goes on Windows, but if I were Apple I'd make iTunes grab firmware updates on the PC side.

            Many users have had horrible results with the updates btw leading to non-functioning sytems, missing libraries, and no internet access.

            If an iPod firmware update crashes your system, kills your Internet or deletes system files I think
        • Re:Synergy (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Lost+Found (844289)
          I think every single one of you is missing the point. First off, Neuros Audio, being in the business of making music players, has to either:

          (A) Attempt to sell their business;
          (B) Do something else with their time and money (why have multiple vendors in a market anyway);
          (C) Simply die;

          or

          (D) compete with Apple.

          The fact that they are alive means there is currently room for them on the market. The Slashdot submission, as is the norm, has a slant worse than the article it links. There's a big difference between
      • Once the iPod came out, MP3 players went from strictly being geek toys to being something that EVERYONE wanted.

        Successfully negotiating distribution rights and rights management (DRM) with the major labels played a big part in this. So did iTunes for Windows, which is beginning to look more and more like a native Windows app...

        • [...]iTunes for Windows, which is beginning to look more and more like a native Windows app...

          If you mean "a raging, festering piece of crap" then yes, you're right. Here's a fun thing you can test at home to see if it works the same way it does for me: If I'm ripping some tracks to MP3, and I click the taskbar icon to restore the application from being minimized, then it doesn't restore - until I right-click on the taskbar icon and move my mouse pointer over the context menu which has appeared (with

      • I concur—it's the marketing. iPods are remarkably overpriced and underfeatured for what you get compared to other portable digital audio players. But everyone knows the name "iPod" because of the TV and print ads.

        Even things Apple initiated, like the protocol behind what free software users call "ZeroConf" (what Apple now calls "Bonjour") aren't present in iPods despite the nice service it could help provide to iPod users—with wireless communication hardware built into a portable digital aud

      • The reason the iPod is the sucess it has become is very simple - word of mouth. Marketing gets people buying new products. Really amazing marketing (which I do not think the iPod has) gets you to perhaps 20-30% market share, but don't forget OTHER products are also marketing at the same time! And Marketing does not really help you to get people to buy second or third players if a person is not happy with what they have.

        The only way you achive utter market domination is by people liking a product so much
    • 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.

      D
    • 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
      • by Space cowboy (13680) * on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @06:49PM (#13936400) Journal
        [sigh] No, I didn't say that. You just said that.

        Show me a single open-source project that goes from end-to-end (source to end-user) and gives you a seamless natural way of doing "it" (whatever 'it' is) like the [itunes store][mac or pc][itunes software][ipod device][ipod interface] does. And it does it well, even under extreme loads like several thousand songs - the click-wheel made sure of that. There's nothing that Open-Source does like that. Not one thing comes to mind. Linux ? You must be joking! Apache? Yeah, right! Both of these are aimed at highly technical and able people. My sister (and you'd have to know her!) has an Ipod!

        Open source is excellent at doing a task. "We want an OS". Great - here it is. "We want a webserver". Cool - here you are. As a paradigm it's less good at the whole shebang. It's a cog in the wheel, not an end, in and of itself.

        I should probably point out that I've been using Linux since it came on floppies, that I ditched a DECstation 3100 to run it on an early '486. That I set up one of the earliest webservers (on the ditched DECstation, actually) in the UK - when you had to email CERN to tell them there's a new webserver in the world. I'm familiar with open-source, have used it, have contributed. I'm in no way a foe of open source. I just don't think it's a panacea.

        Simon
    • Re:Propriatory (Score:3, Insightful)

      by RingDev (879105)
      The reason why Apple has always managed to do so well is becuase they have (until tiger) been almost exclusively proprietory. If you build your own hardware, you can build software that works perfectly on it. Since everyone using your software has a precisely defined piece of hardware (that you built) you can eliminate a huge range of issues (drivers, drivers, drivers...)

      But at the same time you create a situation where there is one sole provider of the hardware/software for the consumer. Look at the pain y
  • Translation (Score:5, Funny)

    by conner_bw (120497) on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @06:19PM (#13936061) Homepage Journal
    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.
    • "We promise not to pay you."

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

    • by Overly Critical Guy (663429) on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @06:32PM (#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 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by guitaristx (791223) on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @06:39PM (#13936301) Journal
      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.
      • Re:Translation (Score:5, Informative)

        by Vaevictis666 (680137) on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @07:12PM (#13936596)
        This mostly applies to the Neuros 3 (their next-gen MP3 player) than the 442 (video player).

        The plan from what I know as someone waiting for the Neuros3 to come out so I can purchase it, is that they're doing in-house development on it to a fully functional point and open-sourcing it and any libraries/middleware they can contractually release.

        The "community" effort they're relying on to drive further adoption is for the extensions. It doesn't ship with Ogg or FLAC support natively, but someone out there is going to add it because they know how, and then it will become a selling feature. The developers who add this kind of thing will gravitate to it because it means they *can* get a portable Ogg player if they put the effort into it.

        And yet, after all of this, Neuros (the company) isn't doing anything explicit for Ogg support or whatever. They're just creating a shell and letting people tinker with it. They do apply to your first criteria (Write it themselves, and open-source it.) for the basics, and then let the community push it and see how far they want to take the hardware.

      • Correction -- open source might cost money. Idealogy aside, I still think it's free as in speech, not as in beer. Frequently it ends up being the latter, but there is no requirement. Plenty of people pay for it. I paid several hundred dollars for a copy of SuSE last year.
  • More "Skins" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MLopat (848735) on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @06:20PM (#13936068) Homepage
    Oh great, just what we all needed more skins for a media player. That's essentially what this project amounts to.
    • Re:More "Skins" (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      "We'll do all the features, then we'll let the open-source community do the UI & polish. They just *ROCK* at that stuff."
  • PR (Score:2, Interesting)

    by gtrubetskoy (734033) *

    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 (Score:3, Informative)

      by Valafar (309028)
      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
    • Eh, I've met Joe, and chat with him on AIM regularly. Extremely sharp guy, very intelligent, and super nice. He's not trying to become Steve Jobs, he's trying to reach a niche market.

      Have fun with your Nano, I find the Neuros much more interesting and useful. I've been lost without my Neuros2 since its hdd went south and I've been too lazy to send it in for repairs. I enjoy it much more than my ipod.
    • That CEO has a bad attitude, but even worse flamebait comes from Richard Doherty, principle analyst for research firm Envisioneering:

      "... right now any innovation only belongs to a half a dozen companies."

      What a moron. If he considers a corpse of patent lawyers innovation, he might have a point. If he wants features and convenience, he has no clue.

      KDE and other have it all gpl'd and ready for anyone. Playing, ripping and portability, it's all there.

      For ripping, there's the easy "abcde" program and

  • Damn good idea (Score:5, Interesting)

    by COMON$ (806135) on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @06:22PM (#13936095) Journal
    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.
  • Even if... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CupBeEmpty (720791) on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @06:24PM (#13936118) Homepage
    ...it is a publicity stunt I don't mind. We could use more publicity stunts like this.
  • Open source UIs (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jfengel (409917) on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @06:24PM (#13936120) Homepage Journal
    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".
  • Not likely (Score:5, Insightful)

    by phpm0nkey (768038) on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @06:25PM (#13936136) Homepage
    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 (Score:4, Interesting)

      by DrEldarion (114072) on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @06:34PM (#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.

    • 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.
    • by SuperBanana (662181) on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @06:39PM (#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.

    • 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 ca
    • 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 se
  • by Evangelion (2145) on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @06:26PM (#13936146) Homepage

    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.
  • by CaptScarlet22 (585291) on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @06:26PM (#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.

  • 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...
  • 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.
  • It's not that easy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by countach (534280) on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @06:29PM (#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 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Doyle (620849) on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @06:30PM (#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. ;)
  • by G4from128k (686170) on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @06:30PM (#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?

  • UI design (Score:5, Interesting)

    by ThaFooz (900535) on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @06:31PM (#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).
  • 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 th
    • by colin_n (50370) on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @06:41PM (#13936319) Homepage Journal
      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...
    • 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.

      Ah...but that isn't Steve's way. That may have been Apple's way in the past, but Steve doesn't let Apple rest on its laurels. Remember when the first iMac came out? It was a big hit. He didn't just be happy with the gum drops though while imitation after imitation came out. He came out with the new iMac. And then the completely redesigned iMac again.

      He did the same thin
    • by daeley (126313) on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @06:56PM (#13936470) Homepage
      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.

      Nice troll, dude, but you conveniently left out the reason they're pissed off at him -- because they want to raise the prices of the music downloads, and Apple refuses to. If he were motivated by greed in this instance, he'd jump all over that and get a bigger piece of the pie.
    • by Lysol (11150) on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @07:01PM (#13936500)
      Ah jesus, here we go...

      You're right on one thing, it won't last forever - nothing does. However what does Steve's greed have anything to do with this issue? Also, I seriously doubt the iPod is just a cool trend. Sure, some kids definitely have them for that, but I also know a lot of over-30 folks who have them in the car, home, pocket, etc - I don't see that as a trend.

      Personally, I think the iPod software is great. Both Creative and Sony had players out before the iPod and they were crap. Their interfaces sucked and Apple was able to marry the scroll wheel with easily navigation. So far, neither Creative or Sony has showed anything interesting, nor will they probably in the near future.

      As for the iTunes store and Steve pissing off the owners of the music, I think you referring to the music and media cartels, right? Hmmm...
      And making some missteps, that must be, what...? 1 mil videos in 20 days? Or is it over 1/2 billion songs? Or some other nook that's not been reported on yet.

      Look, I love 'open source' just as much as the next guy and my livelihood actually depends on it. But just because some group of people sprinkle the magic dust on [insert app or device here] doesn't mean it's gonna rule the streets. It's so obvious sometimes that the OS and even M$ communities are so focused on their one way (M$ dominating everything and playing w/nothing and OS re-doing everything M$ does for free) of the world that to them, it's impossible that something 'not invented (or copied) here' can be great.

      Honestly, I don't care much for Jobs, but I tip my hat to Apple pretty much every time I use one of their products. They understand design and implementation almost better than any tech company out there. Sure, they're not perfect, but their stuff just makes sense. This is coming from someone who took a long time to give up Windowmaker and whatever the latest and greatest Intel/Amd box of the day was. I hope some OS player will see some success, but it won't happen soon, just look at Windows vs. GNU/Linux/Gnome. You're assuming the mass of people give a shit about OS and the Windows monopoly just shows they don't. So, you can pretty much apply the same rule to the iPod for the foreseeable future.
  • 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.
  • by jmkaza (173878)
    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.
  • by chia_monkey (593501) on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @06:42PM (#13936328) Journal
    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.
    • Why did it succeed?

      1. Stylish design attracted influential people and people with money to spend on it
      2. Said people informed other people about how cool the ipod is
      3. Second tier of people admired the design and bought it
      4. Third tier of people bought it because they didn't know any other mp3 players
      5. Final tier of people bought it because everybody else had one
      6. Profit!
  • by 14erCleaner (745600) <FourteenerCleaner@yahoo.com> on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @06:43PM (#13936341) Homepage Journal
    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...

  • 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.
  • I'm glad that the Wired article uses the term "hacker" appropriately [catb.org]...
  • Quick google search reveals that the phrase "iPod killer" was used about 500 times on slashdot, often in headlines - to quote "Latest "iPod Killer" Takes Aim at the Mini" [slashdot.org], Microsoft's iPod-Killer: Portable Media Center? [slashdot.org] or simply "More iPod Killers Introduced for the Holiday" [slashdot.org]. Despite this abundance of killers, iPod is still very much alive. Many of these falied iPod killers actually did have more features - for example, OGG Vorbis support or built-in FM radio, which proves that actually it's very easy to
  • Compensation (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dslauson (914147) on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @06:52PM (#13936432) Journal
    What I would like to know is what does the open source community get out of this? I mean, yeah, it would be cool to have an OSS ipod competitor, but if it still costs me $300 even though I helped write the software, what's the point?
  • by csoto (220540) on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @06:54PM (#13936448)
    Sorry, but open source players don't care enough about the stuff that makes Apple successful - polish and design.
  • The hardware for the Neuros audio player was horrible, as of a year ago when I purchased one. The radio didn't pick up any stations, the 20G HD model was huge, and the HD on mine wouldn't even spin up 1/2 the time. The batteries were known for dying out, or not charging enough to run the player.

    It was a hacker's device, and far from "just working". I love playing with toys and getting things to work, but not my MP3 player. I just want it to start when I hit start, and play some music.

    When the player doe
  • The RIAA closed down the "open source" alternatives to the iTMS (iTunes Music Store)...
  • The ability to make UI tweaks isn't going to do it. Will I be able to code support for open source codecs such as ogg vorbis or will I be restricted to using only WMA and MP3? Can I code up a music library application that works in Linux? That's the kind of thing I want to work on. Screw the interface tweaks.

  • I think an open source player (nuts to bolts) could really work!

    One thing it needs to be is different and bold, not bland and sucky like every other non-iPod media player out there today (sorry non iPod owners but I've used other devices and they just are not as nice in any way that I (or most people) care about). Come up with some really original UI ideas, as a for-instance although I know hardware changes are not really on the table what about accellerometers controlling things like volume? Think of som
  • When I can also put linux on my ipod(see ipodlinux.org) it gives me that much more my ipod can do while still maintaining all the ipod functionality I enjoy(installation of ipodlinux sets up a dualboot system). I can play videos on my non-video ipod, play games like doom, emulate gameboy color, and a bunch of other useful applications. It lets me get the absolute most out of my apple hardware, which is pretty much on par with anything else any other mp3 player company can offer.

    I'm still not saying thi
  • by Tony (765) on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @07:09PM (#13936571) Journal
    The Neuros 442 is not intended to be an iPod killer; it's designed to be a portable multimedia device. It'll play and record video. Its MP3 playback is far superior to the iPod. And, you don't have to spend $400 to hack on this device: you can get a developer board [americantechpushers.com] for about $160.

    Anyway, I'm on the list for a board when they become available; and I am listening to the Eels on my 442 right now. For an MP3 device, the interface is not impressive but the playback is; as a portable video device, it's tre cool.
  • by droopycom (470921) on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @08:03PM (#13936970)
    It even outweight 2 ipods....

    Neuros (40G):
    136.1 x 78 x 26.5
    325g

    Ipod (60G):
    103,5 x 61,8 x 14
    157 g

  • iRiver and Rockbox (Score:3, Informative)

    by meowsqueak (599208) on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @08:45PM (#13937286)
    I have rockbox running on my iRiver H120 - mp3 and gapless Ogg Vorbis playback, FM stereo, recording, lots of other stuff. Rockbox is completely open-source and under active development (it was originally written for some of the Archos players). Compared to the stock iRiver firmware, the Rockbox effort is better in almost every single way. Bravo to the Rockbox developers!

    Another great thing is that I can (and have) dive into the source if I want to tweak something, like a default or a level multiplier.
  • The Appliance Factor (Score:3, Interesting)

    by catdevnull (531283) on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @08:52PM (#13937332)
    I think we, as members of the geek culture, are often jaded by the technical downsides to successfully marketed products and we always like to knock what's on top and point out the flaws. The market is a bit less demanding technically so let's set the issue of technical quality aside for just one moment (I'll come back to it in a moment).

    For the past 20 years, the home computer (Mac, PC, or other) has gone from a geeky little gadget to a household necessity. The success of the Win-Tel marketshare owes most of its success to the price point to help ensure its status as ubiquitous. Windows PCs are everywhere on the planet--look at your security logs if you're not completely convinced. They nearly drove the Mac to extinction and succeeded in killing off OS/2, BeOS, Amiga, etc. into obscurity. But there was always the promise of the next version finally being better and bug free.

    Lately, though, as gadgets have become more sophisticated and easier to use, the computer has actually become the stop gap between people and their digital bliss. Along comes Apple with its iPod--and applicance that does one thing very easily. It's a success.

    I don't think Apple's status as a giant corporation with marketing power is the deal breaker--if that were true, the Mac would be much more prominent. I think the simplicity and product design is what consumers want.

    The only people I ever hear bitch about the iPod are geeks who aren't afraid of buttons or Ogg/Vorbis.

    There's something to be said about the computer and its peripherals being marketed as appliances. I think that's what most people want--a simple push-a-button Jetson's world that doesn't require tinkering or tweaking.

    So, if the Open Source community wants to build a better iPod, they'd better figure out a way to beat the iPod on the simplicity front because 80% of the players purchased out there don't seem to care about the price point or features slashdotters bitch about.
  • Pod Wars (Score:3, Funny)

    by wardk (3037) on Wednesday November 02, 2005 @09:19PM (#13937514) Journal
    I can imagine the interface wars.

    2005
    GnomePOD!, no Kpod!
    GnomePOD....Kpod
    GnomePOD...Kpod
    no enlightenPod v.17 dammit!!

    how about GNUpod?

    2006-2010
    repeat

    2011
    repeat....only enlightenPod is now at v.18
  • by jeriqo (530691) <jeriqo&unisson,org> on Thursday November 03, 2005 @06:13AM (#13939637)
    Can Open Source Outdo the IPod?

    (...checking open source user interfaces screenshots...)

    No.

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