Whilst I’m being critiqued for wanting an extra dinkle on my dongle (see comments in earlier posts), I have to say I’m amazed by these two “over the air” services:
The first, PowerCast, promises to deliver power without wires the same way that we get the internet across a wireless network. 100s of companies are, it seems, ready to ship compatible products. The potential seems huge – trains with transmitters installed in a carriage that allow laptops to charge whilst being used (must be cheaper than installing plugs in every seat); hotel rooms where you can work anywhere, no longer tethered to that usually uncomfortable chair by the desk that is the only one in reach of the power cord; an end to cables trailing all over the place at home; and no need to carry a mobile phone charger wherever you go, as long as you know you’re going somewhere with powercast. Will it work? Who knows. The track record of these kind of changes – ones that require an infrastructure to be set up so that you can reliably get power wherever you need it – isn’t that great. This could be the “Rabbit” phone of its time, or it could be the new “WiFi”.
The second, Slacker, plans to deliver music over the air to any device – be it a mobile phone or an MP3 player. Sensibly realising that Apple has pretty much locked down the hard-drive based, upload your music and occasionally buy a track model, and seeing (I assume) services like last.fm, pandora and others, they’ve gone for something different. Slacker will see you a device, like an ipod, with a subscription or funded by banner ads, that allows music to be wirelessly shiped to your device. Just like the online equivalents you get to say “like it” or “hate it” to tunes and either keep them or reject them. If you’re paying, you keep them for good (or as long as you carry on paying the subscription). Like Rhapsody and other similar services, you get to hear a potentially infinite range of music whenever you want – no hassles with uploading CDs, correcting track notes, organising the collection and so on; but, at the same time, you have to consciously rate the songs as you listen to them to ensure that the rating algorithms keep track with your taste and that stuff that you don’t like listening to is never seen again. The potential upside is that a service like NetFlix evolves, the downside is that Apple just keeps marching ahead with better design and features that appeal to those of us who don’t spend hours ordering our CDs alphabetically or our DVDs by genre and by lead actor. Apple has brand presence, the Slacker folks don’t (yet). Microsoft had brand presence (some would say the wrong presence, I’m not one of those), but still hasn’t cracked it with Zune.
I think we’ll be getting our power wirelessly before we get our music from Slacker. Whether the power will come from Powercast or not, I’m not so sure, but I’d like to see them make progress – it takes someone to open up the market after all.