“How to Best Manage an iTunes Library Without iTunes Match: Wi-Fi Sync and the Case of the Audiophile” Updated

This (pretty awesome) article I wrote last year needed updating. So I just updated it. (Yes, the images are fixed, finally.)

For those curious whether I still use this method for managing my music, I do not. I no longer use an iPod Classic — and I’m fully in the iTunes Match camp now, with no full local copy of my music collection on any computer or device. Further, I’m incredibly excited for iTunes Radio, when it launches later this year.

Who is the Microsoft Surface Pro For?

From The Verge’s video review of the Surface Pro:

It's the best surface by a long shot… But I’m less and less convinced that you want a surface in the first place.

Ouch. From the written review:

But if you’re going to buy a $900 tablet, get the decked-out iPad with LTE and 128GB of storage, and if you're going to buy a Windows laptop, check out the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga or the Dell XPS 12. Which leads me back to the same question Josh asked about the Surface RT: who is this for?

So, who’s the Surface Pro for?

My guess? Microsoft. Just like the Surface RT. Here’s what I said in January:

In short, tablets are where the growth is happening in larger-than-phone computing — and Microsoft has little presence there. In traditional PC sales, Microsoft receives around $50 for a license of Windows, and $67 for a license of Office.

The Surface RT, with its Apple-esque 30%+ margins, is a way for Microsoft to keep revenue and profit high, without manufacturers like Asus and Dell paying $50 a pop for a Windows license… Manufacturers who could easily switch to making hardware for Android — which lacks this hefty fee. Sometimes, Google will even pay manufacturers to use Android.

Subsidies, Carriers and Devices

Chris Zeigler of The Verge writes about nonsensical smartphone pricing, specifically touching on carriers as being the cause of these problems. I’d take it a step further: the problems are subsidies:

Seven months is not a reasonable life cycle for any durable product. You wouldn't buy a new TV, game console, Blu-ray player, refrigerator, or car every seven months. In fact, if a manufacturer discontinued and replaced your TV after seven months, you'd be pissed. But it's like an addiction: carriers and OEMs need the high they get from the fleeting sales bump after the release of an incrementally new model, a bump that quickly flatlines. Hilarious price adjustments ensue; a $199.99 phone falls to $149.99, $99.99, $49.99, and eventually free over the course of a single year.

Treating mobile devices like portable computers rather than “phones” cancels out a lot of the complexity surrounding their pricing. Computers are rarely subsidised — and we’re still happy to spend thousands up front for a new machine every few years.

The entire premise of my piece “The Cheapest Way To Buy An iPhone In The UK” is that buying a mobile phone outright — and unlocked — is more cost effective than taking a subsidised price from a carrier and paying through the nose monthly for the data plan:

If you do the maths, over 12 months I pay £620 for my phone and data plan, whereas a similar 12 month contract on Vodafone would cost £771.

This is still true today, but I think more people are realising it.

If a customer approached HTC directly and asked which phone they should buy, it’d likely be the most current flagship model. The same would go for Apple or Samsung — even if cheaper or older devices like the iPhone 4 are available. Current flagship models will have a longer lifespan and more features than older or cheaper devices.

Carriers are where the problems start: subsidising devices differently skews the value proposition. Carriers offer the same service to customers whether they buy a cheap device or an expensive device. Phone manufacturers will generally receive the same revenue whether the devices are bought directly or through a carrier.

I still feel that treating carriers like “dumb pipes” is the easiest way to visualise where money goes when you buy a new phone. Carriers will get their cash on a recurring monthly schedule, whereas hardware manufacturers will get their revenue in a single upfront purchase.

Skewing these business models will generally only increase complexity. I’d advise against it where possible: carrier lock-in, locked devices or extremely high monthly tariffs are more hassle than they’re worth.

A Different World

Chasing Perfection 2.0 is here.

It's taken a while, but I'm incredibly proud to finally announce the redesign is complete.

There have been a lot of changes, both front and back end. Firstly, the font you're currently reading is Adelle, a truly beautiful slab serif, optimised for the web and high resolution Retina displays1. Choosing a typeface is exceedingly difficult, however I believe I've made a great decision: the absolutely stunning italic glyphs of Adelle won me over. The back end of Chasing Perfection has been upgraded to Squarespace 6, and is running a custom template lovingly coded by Jamie Brittain. It not only looks great on different size displays, it loads faster, too.

This redesign is a large step in the direction I've wanted to take Chasing Perfection towards for quite some time. It has been humbling to have witnessed how my creation has evolved since its inception.

Please, if you spot any strange quirks or bugs with the website, let me know.

Thank you.

1: Seriously, visit this website on a Retina display.