Mac Scope

The Digital Hub Gets Rolling

Stephen Van Esch - 2001.10.31

Steve (and that other guy named Bill) has been droning on about how the PC is moving away from being a single-purpose machine shoehorned under the desk and becoming the center of the new digital universe. They'll control all the digital devices and become the command center of digital activities.

So far, not much seems to be happening, but Apple is taking a step in the right direction with the iPod.

I've mentioned before that the greatest hurdle to the digital hub vision is people's perception of the computer's place in the home. To recap: No one really thinks of a computer when they want to play music or videos. They think of their stereo or VCR or DVD player.

Of course, Apple (and now Microsoft) has been pressing home the point that you can create cool DVDs, rip songs, and do many other cool and interesting things. What seems to be left out of the equation is that you can use the same computer to play those CDs and DVDs you just ripped.

For the average user, the computer remains the creation station. Anything created there is removed from the machine by being burned onto a CD and then physically carried over to another machine. What's wrong with this picture?

By taking the initiative and designing new products for its users, Apple is gaining control of the machines that we currently use as single use machines (DVD player to play DVDs, CD player to play CDs). For example, with this tentative first step, Mac users aren't all that far from having a wireless stereo that's controlled by the Mac. Imagine being able to zip play a playlist or listen to an Internet radio station on your stereo through your Mac. Of course, you could just wire the whole house now and be able to do just that. (I'd do it myself but my significant other doesn't want me ripping up the carpet.)

Anyway, this is the first Apple product that's not really a Mac and a step away from Apple producing only computers. In a dream world, it's entirely possible to have an Apple-branded TV that is wirelessly hooked up to your Mac. What does this mean? Simple: No need for a DVD player. Again, this is entirely possible right now, but the average citizen doesn't realize it. Apple would do well to change those attitudes by introducing products that make the digital hub a reality.

And the iPod is a step in the right direction.

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Stephen Van Esch is the founder and president of the E-learning Foundry, an online training resource for Mac users. Steve loves the Mac and is doubly bilingual, since he's also fluent in Windows and French.

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