As the latest debate on whether Linn should support a proprietary Apple format, this time the newly-announced AirPlay, flared up on the Linn Forum, it reminded me of the calls before the Klimax DS was released from some quarters for Linn to get on the bandwagon and support iPod docking, the latest "must-have" feature for home music systems.
We weighed up the pros and cons at length at the time, and once we'd agreed to abandon the dream of unimaginable riches by hitching our wagon to the iPod, and instead to pursue our own bone-deep belief in the network, I managed to get an audience with a cluster of Apple audio execs at their HQ in Cupertino.
Our view at the time (as it is today) was of a network-centric, not product-centric nor company-centric, world and we, perhaps naively, thought we could convince Apple to adopt open standards that would satisfy our shared customers without forcing Linn to join the "Made for iPod" program. (Picture the revised Linn new product launch: "This is the new Klimax DS; it's made for iPod.")
Apple's ethos can be summarised as follows, and I'll do my very best to quote directly from a senior Apple exec: "It's an Apple world, it's our party, and everyone's invited."
Now, I love my iPhone, and I love my iPad even more?--?surely the best way so far to control a Linn DS system?--?but I don't view ownership and enjoyment of these products as a subscription to an Apple World.
Where the iPad is at its best?--?controlling my DS, watching YouTube (no Apple TV required), accessing my Dropbox, browsing the web (minus Flash)?--?is everything to do with it being a great network-centric device and nothing to do with iTunes or the Apple World. It subtly but irreversibly changes our perception of any gadget being at the centre of the universe. Why put an iPod dock on a home music system? What about an iPhone dock, an iPad dock, and the whatever-gadget-I-buy-next dock?
It simply doesn't make sense. It never did. And I do feel a little sorry for people who were convinced to buy now-obsolete, so-called "high-end" iPod docks, sometimes embedded into the chassis of an expensive hifi product, sometimes embedded into the walls of their homes.
So what of AirPlay?
Well, it's the same again, except this time we're supposed to buy into the idea of iTunes at the centre of the universe. To take up the invitation to the party means Linn paying Apple to license AirPlay-compatibility rights so that our products stream wirelessly from iTunes.
That'll be the same iTunes that links to the iTunes Store that monopolises the low quality download market and keeps the lion's share of the revenues, the same iTunes that has confused almost all its users into thinking they can junk their CDs after ripping them to 128k.
The same iTunes that is a media server, CD ripper, media player and media controller all-in-one, as well as being a music store and an app store, not to mention a sync package, and now a proprietary wireless streaming hub too.
We're happy to support iTunes as a media library, in the same way as we're happy to support the Apple media formats, but Linn has a bone-deep belief in the open network. We won't license AirPlay because placing iTunes at the centre is an Apple-centric view, not a network-centric view of the home.
It's not an Apple World, it's a networked world. No product, no company occupies the centre of the home, people do. Understanding this fact is essential to anyone seeking to build a future-proof network at home.