iriver doing nice work

iriver2

Some might say they are riffing off Apple and some might say the design is so simple, its boring.  It also has a bit of mid 80’s Japanese electronics feel, think Sony back then.  I just played with the Spinn for a bit.  It’s definitely a nice product.  OLED display is awesome and the build quality is solid.

iriver1

The Visual Media is really nice as well, simple swiss grid like feel.  They are also talking about a new home screen they are calling “magazine” style on some of their other big screen products.  I think its a really fresh take on media design.  It goes beyond the Apple jelly style buttons, or any buttons for that matter, you just interact with the media itself.  But their website, ugh, in this case, Flash doesnt have anything to do with how fast you can view all of their products.  The site is really painful to navigate as well. That said, the UI on the Spinn was a little strange combining touch and physical control in a way that wasn’t naturally intuitive.

sony_walkman_1

You gotta love the original walkman, it changed the game in personal electronics. 1979…wow.

ID Annual – Belkin TuneStudio

What i like best about this is that the designers didn’t try to “celebrate” the ipod. What do I mean by that? They kept it low profile within the unit. Most devices will have your ipod waving like a flag shouting, “hey look at me, I’m an ipod stuck into this box!” For this kind of consumer, dj’s and musicians, its a great way to break both your $300 ipod and $300 mixer.

Here’s my dilemma about this product and its more about positioning and target consumers than design, which I think is right on. Here’s what the Belkin site says. “Whether you are a novice podcaster or an experienced musician, TuneStudio integrates the iPod with a full-featured, four-channel mixer, making it easy for you to create high-quality recordings.” This thing sells for $399 from Belkin. I just paid the same for this recorder from Olympus.

I’m a musician and definitely find the Belkin product really cool, BUT, I already have a mixing board, and nowadays, they come with lots of options to get your files to a PC. I bought the Olympus for recording rehearsals because of it’s ultra portability…built in mics, records straight to mp3, great battery life. The Belkin is small enough to be portable, but then I’m not sure if its the best portable option available. And its really not that portable, because it doesn’t run on batteries and you still need to bring mics. This won’t replace my mixing boards either as it doesnt have enough inputs to handle what I need. Maybe even more important, if this is a recorder…most on the fly recording boards either plug into a PC and syncs with associated software to control levels of each channel on screen. I’m not sure if this can do that…Belkin, why don’t you send me one to play with!

I do know of local radio DJ that mentioned to me that he would like a two track system to do simple voice overs onto a music tracks, but ultimately, he just wants software so he can control the fade and mix. I do like the design, but at $399, I’m not sure what audience will snap this up, maybe the podcaster more so than the experienced musician.

Feature Creep

Does everyone need a camera in phone?

Who would use a voice recorder in their mp3 player?

Do I really need a FM player when i have 30,000 songs my mp3 player?

Do I want to listen to music with my mp3 enabled coffee maker?

I believe “de-featured” products, like the phones from Firefly and Emporia for seniors and kids are great solutions that FOCUS on what people need.

The Swiss army design approach can work for some things, like Swiss army knifes.

to kill and ipod

The infamous Apple ipod. Here’s what we all know:
Itunes store (still the best music store)
Itunes software (still the best software interface)
Iconic AND easy to use interface on the device
Classic design that’s not very polarizing and easy to customize
Nice line of accessories, most via 3rd parties
Great overal product “feel”
but poor longevity
Poor battery life
Screen problems
Complaints of easily damaged/scratched product
Too many products intros in the flavor of small variants of the same thing.

Maybe its time to think out of the box and get passed the thought of how to “beat Apple”. Manufacturers: bring something to the market that people want. Create a great experience with the technology you KNOW and is readily available to you. If you invent something new, be sure its useful, we’ve had plenty of useless inventions over the past years. Finally, exceed expectations.