Posts tagged ‘Steve Jobs’

Are iPods training us to like poor quality sound?

Dale Daugherty writes on O’Reilly Radar about a Stanford professor who tested his students by playing them the same piece of music from an MP3 file and then from a much higher quality source (of which there are many). The professor was dismayed to learn that the students prefer the sound of the MP3s. If you’ve read Neil Postman, you won’t be surprised by this, because as Postman famously stated, “the medium is the metaphor.” In other words, a dominant medium defines how the people who use it expect the world to be. Because we listen to music on iPods more than we listen to it any other way, we like the way music sounds on iPods best.

Of course, this discussion didn’t begin with the iPod. If you spent time in a professional recording studio when digital recording first reared its ugly head a number of years ago, you know that many musicians didn’t like it (and many still don’t). They thought its clarity and precision made it sound cold and antiseptic. They preferred the gentle distortion and tape hiss on recordings made with analog equipment. 

While  I suppose it’s useful to be able to tell the difference between good quality and bad quality sound, the student’s consistent preference for MP3s prove that Steve Jobs is more powerful than the discriminatory powers of the human ear. Oh, well. De gustibus non est disputandum.


March 19, 2009 at 12:40 am 1 comment

In the online world, the money isn’t always where you think it’s going to be.

Consider Ebay. It belongs among the giants of the online space. Yet if you believe what Jeff Segal says at, (and I do) the real value in Ebay going forward is going to be its Paypal subsidiary. Ebay’s auction business is going nowhere; growth was at just 1% last year and lagged the online commerce industry as a whole. Paypal grew at a 26% clip in 2008. By 2011, Paypal will in all likelihood be worth more than its parent company (if you use the same earnings multiples as a competitor, Visa, though it is arguably worth of a higher multiplier). 

Think about Steve Jobs. He fouled out, struck out, and was caught looking at quite a few called third strikes before he got on a product development hot streak that lifted the company out of the doldrums. I think we can all agree that the Lisa and the Newton came up a little short.

Maybe it will work out the same way for Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg had better hope so, anyway. His company is struggling mightily to find a profitable business model. Yet as we speak, some tiny shops are clearing $700,000 a month based on the Facebook apps they have created. Maybe one of them will be the magic bullet. Or perhaps, before he figures out what the magic bullet is, Zuckerberg will quit and run against Meg Whitman for governor of California. Stranger things have happened. Look who the governor is now.

March 13, 2009 at 12:01 am Leave a comment


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