With all the hubub about the new iPods, I stopped into the Apple store. The iPod Nano, Classic and iPod Touch (as well of the iPhone) are superb -- beautiful to touch, and astonishingly small, and simple to operate. Tempting...
But you see, I've got this "lock-in" problem. For the past year, I've been a very happy owner of 4 Sonos players for my home. These wireless babies let me play songs in whatever room I'm in, and I can even nail them all together with a click of the button for "party mode" -- and they are all synched on the beat. They work flawlessly and cost thousands of dollars less than inferior home audio systems -- I'm a huge fan.
So a few months ago I added Rhapsody to it; I'm now paying about $13 per month -- the cost of one CD -- to play any song I'd like from over a million choices. If I want, I can buy them for 10% off the iTunes price and own them permanently. I've got playlists that I use at home. To me, Sonos players plus Rhapsody is really the "killer app" platform for home audio. If I'm in the kitchen, or my office, and want to hear any song, I can dial it up and 3 seconds or so later, I'm listening to it. Pretty amazing.
If I had an iPod, I'd be locked in to the AAC format, I'd have to physically move the iPod device where I wanted to play it, I'd have to plug it in, I'd have to fetch the song and download it or rip it, etc. Further, if I get a guilty-pleasure song that I'm happy to hear once or twice, but know I'm gonna hate in a couple weeks (e.g., Umbrella or What goes around comes around come to mind), I don't have to buy it to hear it all.
So if I bought an iPod, as great and elegant as they are, I wouldn't be able to take advantage of this impressive service. So I decided to pick up a "lesser" product, a simple $129 Sansa e280R.
It's an amazing little device for jogging -- I can simply drag and drop any song I'd like (ok, not Beatles, but just about any other song!) to the Sansa player icon. Each song takes about 3-4 seconds to transfer over USB2.0.
What's more, I can just tell Rhapsody to always copy over my key playlists, as well as a great "Recommends" feature that automatically loads my MP3 player with recommended choices based on other highly rated songs. Voila -- I'm ready for a run, with my favorite music and a few more options too. It's pretty remarkable, and incredibly low-priced. It also has an FM tuner and an audio recorder, two things iPods don't have.