A new product in the pipe
We're in the last stages of preparing a new product for market. It's the next step in the development of Pike, which we released as a free public beta in March of this year.
The software works. I'm using it now. It does all the things that Pike did, but it does something new too.
Now, we can't call the software Pike, because there is already a scripting language with that name, and scripting, while hidden from the end-user, plays a big role in the product. I also think it's good to re-think the name, because it forces me to think about what this product is today and what it's likely to be in the future. A good name will make sense now and in the future.
So what does this unnamed product do? It's a personal radio station. Our software makes it easy for you to program music the way a DJ programs music (it's probably easier and more powerful than professional radio station software). Scroll through your music list, double-click on songs to add them to the queue. In the background, your servant, our software, is choosing songs from the queue and playing them.
You can also add a list of songs to the queue with a single menu command. (The user interface is outlining.) You can have as many lists as you want, but there is only one queue.
The software is also an HTTP server. You designate a folder that you want to share. Any playlists you put in that folder are available over the Web. Not the songs, we're not enabling MP3 sharing as Napster and others do. Just the playlists.
Think about this as an Intranet application. Music in business. An untapped market, but a huge one imho. (Hint to the music industry, businesses generally pay for copyrighted material.)
And this is also a www application, because there's interesting information in your playlist, especially when it's aggregated.
The aggregator is not online yet. When it opens you'll see our favorite songs, literally, the songs that are most loved by people at UserLand. But then we'll open it for everyone to register their favorite songs, it will recalc once a day. The format it reads is a simple XML format, easily produced by any scripting language on any platform. We want to know what other people are listening to. So you can share more than your playlists, you can contribute to a new rating system for music. Let's find out what Internet users like to listen to.
(BTW, all the playlists are XML too. Registration is handled through XML-RPC. Everywhere we've had a choice to be open or closed, we've chosen open. Our software is subject to competition. The user's data is not locked up in a proprietary format, quite the opposite.)
And of course it gets deeper, but let's not go there now. I'm still trying to figure out how to name this thing!
Here's why that's such a problem. Because all that I described is just an application of the product. A powerful application, for sure, and developed in record time because the platform is so rich. The key innovation is that all the power is hidden unless you want to see it. The software is as easy to use as a Web browser or Napster. To an end-user it's a simple way to edit a radio station, but to a developer, it can be much more, just lift the hood. It is a platform, and somehow the product positioning, if not its name, must reflect that.
And dare I say it, it's a platform for P2P applications, which is the rage in Silicon Valley. We took a long-term view in 1997, and made a bet that the market would swing to distributed applications. We invested where the venture capitalists didn't want to invest. While they were selling e-commerce apps to Wall Street, we were developing a powerful platform for P2P. Now that won't mean too much to end-users, and it's risky because the financial community is so flaky, and even though distributed apps are the way to go, I may not want to latch onto the bandwagon.
Anyway, I have to come up with a name soon. The software is almost ready to ship!
Rob Glaser, CEO of Real: "What Napster has done is create a benchmark on how easy the legitimate music experience has to be. It's gotta be pretty darn close to that easy."
Business Week's cover story is about Apple.
Steven Levy: "They went berserk. The tech press seconded their enthusiasm, and even some of the technosnobs at Slashdot.org, a Web site catering to aficionados of the Linux system, expressed outright lust for the newest new thing. It looks like the coolest-looking computer ever just might keep Steve Jobs and Apple sailing along—until the next product launch."
It's amazing that Levy can still get it up for 16-year old computer.
Salon: Eazel Does It. "The plan is to make money by getting Nautilus users to subscribe to add-on Eazel services -- things like software update notifications and Web-based data backups and storage."
News.Com: New Marimba CEO. "There's a whole new management team at this point, from research and development to business development, to the CEO to the CFO to the head of sales--it's all new people. It's a legitimate area of inquiry to ask what's happening there anytime you go through that many people that quickly."
NY Times: Amazon COO Splits for VerticalNet.
On Stating the Obvious, Michael Sippey rebuts a recent Jakob Nielsen piece that says the end of Web design is at hand.
News.Com: "We're all two or three clicks away from something illegal or from something someone doesn't like."
Barry Frankel asks What if Bill Gates had been a music executive? I think Barry is an optimist about Gates. My own opinion, of course, ymmv. (Your mileage may vary.)
And there are some people who think that Gates already runs the music business. Jim Burger pointed out yesterday that the IT industry is an order of magnitude larger than the music industry. If it had been the other way around, we probably wouldn't have writeable CD drives.
Spawn of the Devil?
Gary Robinson asks "Instead of arguing that Jeff Bezos is the spawn of the Devil, maybe it would make sense to see whether he'd be willing to license the affiliate patent or one-click patent for a nominal charge?"
There are a lot of frivolous patents, if we had to negotiate with each one, we'd spend all our time negotiating, lawyer to lawyer, and not spend time writing software.
Bezos and his brethren probably don't care because they don't practice any art, other than getting in the middle and stopping competitive businesses. There's no honor in that, imho. Spawn of the Devil? Maybe. Greedy? Yes, this is what greed means to me.
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