Music Management Alternatives: Characterized by a Lack of Information

userpic=white-ipodYesterday, one of the big pieces of news out of the CES show was Sony’s announcement of a $1,200 MP3 player. In addition to all of the sonic high-quality stuff that really boost the price, what caught my eye was this: “The NW-ZX2 features 128GB of memory — and can be expanded to 256GB — and a battery that’s expected to last up to 60 hours.”. Details are scanty, but I’ll note that you can currently get a digital Walkman that has 64GB onboard and the capability to support a 128GB Micro-SD card (for a total of 192GB) for $299. I’m not sure who is going to pay an extra $900 for the additional 64GB.

However, this got me thinking about my previous post on large-storage iPod Classic replacements. I’ve noted before one of the key drawbacks about moving away from the iTunes/iPod universe is… well… iTunes itself. Just like your electronic relationship with your bank makes it harder to change banks, so too does long-term use of iTunes make it harder to move off of iTunes. Just consider the potential loss of play counts, ratings, smart playlists, and potentially carefully crafted album art. What you would want is a solution that allows you to preserve that additional information. I did some musing and research over lunch yesterday and today. There appear to be two potential winning approaches:

  1. Figure out a way to make iTunes work with a non-iPod device, such that it can not only copy music to the device, but bring play counts and ratings from the device back into iTunes.
  2. Figure out a way to move iTunes data into a non-iTunes music manager — one that can handle all the iTunes capabilities and synch information bidirectionally from the non-iPod device.

Looking into the first option, I’ve found mention of two different solutions: Notpod and iTunesFusion. It is hard to find detailed information on either, although C|Net has a good writeup on using Notpod. It appears that both of these make your non-Ipod device appear as a playlist (not as an iPod). In particular, from the Notpod description, it looks like it just copies over the music files that are on a particular playlist. There’s no interaction with the player’s OS to retrieve play counts and changes to ratings. Further, Notpod does not seem to support syncing multiple playists or smart playlists — in particular, making it so that you have smart playlists on your non-iPod device. iTunesFusion seems similar — its description talks about syncing playlists to the iPod. Neither of these products have extensive screenshots or manuals online that permit further investigation.

Looking into the second option, there are tons of non-iTunes music managers out there. Most of the pages discussing them, however, focus on using a non-iTunes manager with an Apple iDevice — I don’t care about that. I’m curious about products that permit importation of an existing iTunes database (songs, play counts, ratings, playlists) into their own format, and that then provide the syncing ability with non-Apple players. I found one called MediaMonkey that looks interesting, but I need to investigate this further.

So, I’m curious…. has anyone out there in Internet-Land experimented with non-iTunes managers, or syncing between iTunes and non-Apple players?

[ETA: Here’s an interesting analysis of the need for dedicated Media players. I generally agree, but he missed one additional niche: players with sufficient storage to hold an entire music collection. Such storage is found on the high end audio players, but those looking for storage don’t require the high end audio — they are just stuck with it (just as those, to use his analogy, who require film and not digital are either stuck with cheap disposables or high-end SLRs — the mid-market affordable film cameras are gone.)]