Converged Thoughts Four

by Jay Cuthrell
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Happy New Year! Are we done celebrating? Cool. Let’s get started.

As a warning, this update is probably entering long form essay mode due to the nostalgia of what has happened along the rough timeline I’ve constructed. Otherwise – Enjoy!

Side note: If you are enjoying these updates please share them with your peers on Twitter, Linkedin or whatever your preferred microblogging platform of choice might be. Thanks!

20 Years In Streaming Music

“listening to old sk00l dave pearce” - Share

10 years ago I signed up for a Twitter account (@qthrul) that would pump out 40,000 tweets in just over 7 years before I moved on to another more professionally namesaked Twitter account (@JayCuthrell).

My first “tweet” in 2007 referenced back to just over a decade prior when I had come to enjoy online music streaming services back in 1997.

What was different in 2007 was just how much had converged by then. It’s even more converged now as we enter 2017.

Thinking back a little over 20 years ago, to enjoy music streaming required a few things. Well… it actually required quite a few things before audio bliss reached your ears.

1997: Life in the “Fast” Lane

( Yes yes yes… I’m setting aside UNIX sox and Linux xmms users wearing suspenders and reading glasses as they view this update from a terminal running alpine/sup/mutt… 😉 )

If you owned a Windows PC in 1997 you needed to have:

  • a (then) fast connection to this thing called the Internet

    • T1 (~1.5 Mbps) access was what kept you “at work” past 5pm 😁
    • ADSL (~ 0.5 Mbps) was just coming to the masses in the US
    • ISDN (~ 0.128 Mbps) at home was (still) a big deal perk back then in the US
  • a working Ethernet card

  • a working sound card

  • an operating system (Windows 95/97) that didn’t periodically just stop working with one or more of these cards.

  • a special software application installed

    • like RealAudio or WinAmp
    • btw… that didn’t come with the operating system by default

Yeah. Lots of things could go wrong but when it went right… it was pretty close to magical. That was computing in the late 1990s.

maclolOr, you bought a Mac and just waited for one of these when things.

Oh… As for mobile phones in 1997, well… they had a quite a ways to go unless you grew up watching Star Trek on a black and white TV. You couldn’t take photos with a mobile phone at that point. That would actually take another three years or more depending on who you ask.

2007: Life in the “Foist” Lane

phonekeyboardYes. In 2007 there were physical keyboards on phones.

By 2007, you could open a web browser on just about any laptop or desktop, do a quick web search, and hear music online. It was almost a given that the machine was networked by Ethernet or WiFi and connected to high speed broadband of some variety. Things basically just worked when it came to computers. Oh, and now there are things called netbooks.

As for mobile phones it was all about feature phones, if you were a Sprint subscriber you could even access Pandora from a mobile phone. That was pretty amazing back then.

Two years later Pandora came to BlackBerry. Of course, by then a few mobile consumers had already moved on to this thing called an ‘iPhone” that a lot of pundits and industry titans scoffed at loudly.

What the iPhone represented was the convergence of multiple purpose built devices into a single form factor, a single service, and for a time, a single carrier that was foisted upon the subscriber. That’s right. The iPhone was all about exclusivity was the domain of AT&T.

2017: Life in the “Feisty” Lane

As we enter 2017, it’s amazing to think about what you can do on a smart phone. Things are a bit feisty now and the number of choices are only just beginning.

Convergence has been embraced in our devices, in how we think about the back end systems that power the experiences made possible by and on those devices, and in our collective consumer expectations. It all should “just work” in ways that would have seemed like actual science fiction in 1997.

Right now, you have far less parts but oddly enough… quite a few choices to make:

  • Device

    • iPhone
    • Android device
    • A netbook, laptop, or yes… a desktop
  • Connectivity

    • “free” WiFi broadband

    • WiFi on paid broadband (or Ethernet)

    • Carrier 4G/LTE

      • AT&T
      • Verizon
      • Sprint
      • T-Mobile
      • a growing number of MVNOs
  • App (Service)

    • Pandora
    • Spotify
    • Apple Music
    • Tidal
    • and many many more niche services with each passing year

Oh, and as for the 1997 era magic moment… in 2017 you can share that music moment with just about anyone, anytime, and anywhere. It can be as simple and manual as sending a tweet that will pull anyone on the planet into the same experience you are having or you can opt to have automatic updates sent without you even having to be conscious of it.

So, here’s to what will come in 2037 in the next two decades to come in “streaming music” becoming even more magical.

Until next time… turn it up!


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