For those interested in alternatives to iTunes, you might have heard of an Application called DoubleTwist. It’s being heralded by many as a tool that will eventually allow multiple device users to one application to sync their media. What does that mean? It means if you have an iPod you no longer have to use iTunes, if you have a BlackBerry, you no longer have to use RIMs application to sync your phone. It’s a lofty goal and it’s being supported by some hefty venture capital money.
What is DoubleTwist?
It’s the type of movement I could get behind, if the application is fully featured and ready for primetime. But, in my opinion, it’s just not there yet. We can’t fully blame them just yet, it’s a new concept with a lot of hoops they need to jump through to get your device working right out of the box. For instance, their website lists the iPhone 3G model as being supported, but has the caveat that you need to be running the 3.1.1 firmware. We’re now at 3.1.2. So it looks like this might be another example of the cat and mouse game that’s been going on with Apple and their detractors.
The application itself is both cleaner and more streamlined than Apple’s iTunes, and it offers something that Apple would never let their iTunes users have access too in a million years. Another Music Store. That’s right, DoubleTwist gives you access to the Amazon Music Store, which has been known to have better pricing as well as better quality rips of their music, without the DRM. That’s a pretty big option if you’re an audiophile, or a music lover.
Another thing that sets it apart from iTunes is the social network aspects that the DoubleTwist team has implemented. Apple’s slowly been integrating social media network access to their application (Facebook, iTunes), but at this point in time, you don’t have the ability to do anything but share a link to a song or media file. DoubleTwist actually lets you add friends and share files, photo, video, anything really. It’s really become a media hub that incorporates iTunes, iPhoto, your Address Book, as well as a video catalog from your personal video recording device. They let you send media to anyone from your address book, and if they’re a DoubleTwist user they’ll get the update straight in the application.
3 Things Apple Can Learn from DoubleTwist
Outside of the typical argument that Apple needs to open up their applications to developers so that they can integrate their devices with iTunes, there’s a lot that can be taken from DoubleTwist that would make iTunes a far superior product.
Could you imagine an iTunes with the ability to actually form social networks around your favourite artist or podcast series? A way for fans to connect in a place where they can actually purchase the music would be a sure fire way to increase sales. It would take advantage of fans optimism for a franchise and let them evangelize it easily. It would be the perfect mashup of Last.fm, Myspace (shudder!), and Twitter. Let people tie their personal social accounts to their iTunes account, and you’ll Apple would reap the benefits financially, and users will be able to converse with like minded people. Music’s a unifier, let the music unify the people and get the dialog going. Maybe we’ll finally be able to get legitimate ratings out of it, and the pop crap will fall to the way-side (dare to dream, I know)
As much as we like to delude ourselves that the iPhone is the most superior phone on the planet, one simple fact remains, not everyone uses an iPhone. I know, it’s borderline treason to even think it, but there currently exists a large number of people out there who want to buy music from iTunes, but can’t easily integrate their phones with iTunes. I thought business was about increasing market share, not alienating markets. Could their be a way to given other smartphone users access to the music store, but only provide other services to iPhone and iPod users? I don’t think it would cannibalize sales, and it might just act like the Mac Mini does in the PC market. A tool to lour people into the iTunes market place, and possible have a bunch of conversions along the way.
What application on the Mac platform lets you share your media with friends and family? iMovie lets you upload things to YouTube, but I’m pretty sure that were this sharing ends. Well, I lied, they do give us some abilities to upload to our iWeb accounts, or send an email, but that’s not exactly 2009, nor is it immediately gratifying. iTunes has become a media hub, why not make it our social hub so that we can actually share what we’re listening to, what we’re watching, what we’re doing with our families and friends. It wouldn’t take much, just a little code that runs like the Last.Fm application that keeps track of what we’re doing and then letting people see it. Actually, the more I think about it, the more Apple just needs to buy up Last.Fm and integrate it into iTunes. It seems like it would cure 90% of my ideas listed here.
The Wrap Up
DoubleTwist is going to be a major player in this fight. It’s not going to happen immediately, and it’s certainly not going to be an easy road for them, but like everything else, we’re moving to open options for our devices, and companies like DoubleTwist will be challenging Apple Inc. in a way that no one has in a couple of years. Hopefully this means an evolution in iTunes and some revenue for DoubleTwist, because it’s starting to look like consumers need both to exist if anything is going to evolve to its full potential.