Santa Claus, in the form of my beautiful wife, brought me a new Sandisk Sansa e270R for Christmas this year, and I must say that it truly rocks!
I'm a huge music fan with tastes ranging from early live recordings of Louis Armstrong to my latest favorite Panic! At the Disco's CD 'A Fever You Can't Sweat Out". I have a decent CD collection but find that by the time I hear enough of a CD to decide to purchase it, that I am ready to move on to something else. Hence I always seem to be looking for something new to listen to that I don't own already. That is why the Rhapsody music service is so great for me and why I love my new Sansa player.
Rhapsody lets me select the artists or albums I want to listen to just like any other online music store. But the feature I use most is what they all "Channels". Based on their original radio station concept, you can now listen to Channels based on any number of criteria. For example, while listening to Concrete Blonde's "Mexican Moon", I clicked the "Concrete Blonde Radio" button. This queued up a playlist of Concrete Blonde songs as well as songs by several other groups who are in the same genre as Concrete Blonde. Listening to this channel led me to discover Cowboy Junkies and another musical love affair was born. I can also create channels from scratch by entering in 5-10 artists and letting it build the playlist with songs from those artists and others like them. And of course if I don't like the song that's playing I can just skip right past it.
The Sansa Rhapsody (as denoted by the "r" in the model number) came with about 500 songs preloaded on its' 6 Gigabyte drive. Even better though it also came loaded with about 12 preloaded channels like "Classic Rock Vault" featuring CCR, Rolling Stones, and Boston. Each channel contains about sixty songs with some being shared by multiple channels. I can add and remove channels using the desktop application and when I sync up my player it will automatically sync those channels as well. This way I can always have something new to listen to without having to buy the CD. If I hear a song I really like, I can click the scroll wheel and add it to my personal library that way it's always available to be played. And all of this without ever actually buying the song which I can also do from the player.
Having read reviews and raves about the Zune, I have to say the only feature I'm at all envious of is the ability to share a song wirelessly. But unless you happen to work at Microsoft, how likely are you to run into somebody else with a Zune on a regular basis? The size of the Zune make it considerably less desirable as the Sansa is about as big as two Nano set on top of each other. It has a nice clear color screen that while I probably wouldn't watch a video on it, is more than sufficient for the music menuing system. It also has an FM receiver with the ability to record as well as a built in voice recorder.
All-in-all, it's a great little gizmo and a wonderful Christmas present! Thanks Susan!!
Well the year is officialy over now, or will be within a matter of hours and like a beaten candidate on election night it's also time for me to concede victory in my bet from last year to Rob and all of the other AJAX smitten developers of the world.
While losing this bet is of little consequence for me personally, I fear it reflects an overall sense of stagnation in the smart client world. Windows Live services which at this time last year was launching several smart client applications has not really released anything significant since with the notable exception of the Live Writer blogging tool. Click-Once deployment has become considerably easier and more technologically feasible as the installed base for the .NET Runtime has grown but we still see very little in the way of consumer rich client applications deployed via the Internet. Office 2007 represents a significant improvement in what I would consider to be one of the most successful set of smart client applications, but one suite of applications can't change the world by itself.
It would seem that most software companies are willing to settle for "good enough" with the features of AJAX for fear of alienating the minority of folks either not running Windows or who have had their PCs locked in a cave such that the .NET Framework hasn't made it onto their systems. I won't bother debating whether this fear is warranted, the end result is that the adoption of smart clients - particularly external to an enterprise, has simply not hapenned. In the end, this willingness to settle for the limited functionality available with AJAX costs our users in their experience and ease of use of the software we are creating. And we, the collective software industry, seem to be just fine with that.
The good news is that new technologies like WPF/e seem poised to further bridge the gap between the conceptual ease of centralized deployment and the rich content of smart client applications. Perhaps with the adoption of Vista and thereby WPF, which I believe will be a very slow process, XAML will put AJAX scripting to rest once and for all and our users will not have to suffer with "good enough".