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The Net Takeaway: Getting Smaller All The Time...


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Getting Smaller All The Time... · 09/17/2005 11:50 PM, Tech

(With apologies to the Beatles)
I am confused over the direction of the MP3 player market. Maybe I missed something, but why is everyone continually getting excited over the fact that MP3 players are now shrinking in capacity? I mean, sure, the physical size is ever smaller, fine, but small tech is only cool when its small… but still capable. Shrinking the size and capacity doesn’t seem like a win-win to me.

A few years ago, it was easy to find 30gb and even higher players. Now, hunting around, only Apple’s Ipod is at 60gb, and the rest hang out at 30 or less.

(For those interested, Cowon has a 30gb, the old Creative Zen Touch is still in a 40gb where available, the Creative Nomad Zen Extra is a 60gb (from 2003)... and that’s it. Even the video portables are in small HD sizes… insane. A few nonames like the Toshiba Gigabeat, the Jobo Giga Vu Pro, the NHJ, VOSONIC, and the LG Mediagate pop up with varying sizes, but these have so little support and presence that they are hard to even find to pick up and hold.)

I agree, the Nano is cool, the flash and microdrive players are fascinating… but I have lots more than 20gb of files now. As I’ve ripped new CDs the day I get them, as I’ve gone back through the archives to rip old stuff, and yes, as I’ve gotten a few tracks handed to me, I’ve gotten enough that my 20 gb Rio Karma is full (well, and discontinued). So now what? I have the option to get the most expensive thing available ($400 Ipod 60GB) or an old model Creative or the Cowon (popular in Korea, lots of patches added over time… but not the most friendly of systems) or some of the nonames… but why do I have such a limited selection in what should be the sweet spot of the market?

Instead, I am supposed to settle for how things were in the bad ol’ days, when we only had 32 or 64 megs, when I had my first Rio 500:

(Courtesy of

I basically put on the music for the day the night before, maybe 10 or so songs, and kept rotating them.

Now, a 4gb box has the same issue. I can randomly pick a selection of albums to hear, but when I get bored, I have to re-dock, re-shuffle, re-up and download. Aren’t machines supposed to make life easier? Why can’t I just have all my tracks on one drive?

The future will be easier: all my devices will be on the WAN/cell/whatever network, and I will just stream my tracks to whatever device I choose to use. But til then, the question is a clear one: why won’t America buy large hard drives? We do for our home machines. All the large HD players are the same size as the small ones (except for the Nano and other flash players, of course). But one by one, all the large HD models are no longer available in the US. The only reason is that they don’t sell, which is disappointing.

Perhaps most people don’t have lots of tracks; if they buy copy-protected CDs or buy the tracks online, then yes, they can’t afford many tracks. And maybe people want the “portioning” approach. But I don’t think so. I think that 2 years from now, we will laugh and kick ourselves that we bought such small sizes, just like we throw away 16mb USB drives that we thought were so cool just a year or so ago.

So, keep demanding larger drives. Every store you go to, ask where the large ones are. Send letters to vendors. Sooner or later, they’ll see the errors of their ways. In the meantime, please click on every ad on my site. I need every penny I can scrape from under the couch to get that 60gb Ipod…

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