Hey, Softies, wanna read a book about the iPod?
Some of you may be startled to learn that Microsoft invited me to talk to interested employees about “The Perfect Thing”–after all the iPod is a competitor that they just haven’t been able to handle–but I wasn’t surprised at all. Microsoft did not get where it was by sticking its head in the sand: the place is packed with super-smart empiricists who know the benefit of listening to all points of view, even those offered by those who write books that physically resemble the products they hope to vanquish. So I found myself addressing a nice sized post-lunchtime audience in Redmond last Thursday.
The talk I gave had elements of my usual presentation, with a little more detail on what Apple had in mind during the development process, something I thought this pro crowd might appreciate. When I talked about my bouts with the randomness issue, I saw some knowing nods from people whose mathematical skills probably dwarfed mine when they were in third grade. And I told my listeners, mostly from Microsoft Research, which was the specific host of these author talks, that I would refrain from my usual survey of the crowd–”How many of you have iPods?”–just in case someone was taking pictures. They got the joke.
The questions were, also as I expected, very good. We touched on how much Apple’s design was responsible for the iPod’s success, whether the iPhone might catch on, and–as you might expect–what kind of product could possibly take the iPod down.
For me, though, the highlight was actually a Zune moment. At one point I held up my brown Zune. As I took questions I discreetly fiddled with the device to see if any other Zunes were around, and causally mentioned that I didn’t detect any other Z’s in the room. Within a couple of seconds I glanced down and saw that someone wanted to send me a song. Of course I pressed the “yes” option, and the next time I looked down at the screen I found that someone had sent me a tune–an electronica kind of dance track. Listed as “Discotronic” by Adam Kroll (though someone like Danny Howells seems to have done this actual music; even a web search didn’t resolve this mystery). It’s nicely hypnotic, and I listened to it twice. Now it’s Sunday–past the three day expiration date–and I missed my opportunity to hear it one more time.