Equipment has life cycles not unlike our own. They are dreamed up, assembled, brought to life, nurtured, flourish, fade, get old, and die. And, like us, their progeny carry on with fresh ideas, dreams, and new approaches to our needs.
One technology in the getting-old-phase turns out to be the very instrument I am writing this post on: the personal computer—but perhaps not in the way you might think.
PCs have been the core of music playback for decades. In 1991 Microsoft introduced WMP (Windows Media Player), which was eclipsed a decade later by Apple’s iTunes, suddenly available on both a PC as well as a mobile device known simply as iPod. It wouldn’t be long before digital music control was completely ceded to the PC because all digital music had to somehow come through the PC.
In 2008 things began to change when two engineers, Daniel Ek, and Martin Lorentzon—working out of a shared apartment in Stockholm—began changing the world. Ek and Lorentzon started a company that would soon become one of the world’s largest musical content providers and challenge the reign of the personal computer for music’s playback. The name they chose for their new company, Spotify, was born from a misunderstanding as Lorentzon yelled his choice across the room and Ek misheard.
With Spotify and all its imitators accessible on mobile platforms (as well as purpose-built systems like Sonos, and a growing number of servers, NAS, and other schemes) the need for PCs to play and control music is diminishing.
But it isn’t just streaming services that are freeing us from the tether of big, high-tech boxes tied to mice, keyboards, and video screens. Even physical media like CDs are being controlled and played back less and less on PCs.
Within the next five years, I believe we’ll see PCs fade into the mists of time as the primary interface for our music.
I for one will be thrilled to never use a mouse, keyboard, or video screen to enjoy or control my tunes.
You? Me too.