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Samsung Steals the Brain Behind the iPod 334

An anonymous reader writes "The New York Times reports that Samsung has hired the same programming genius who helped make the iPod so great to design its own music player. They imply that the new Samsung device is just as innovative." From the article: "Samsung's choice of Mr. Mercer also shows how much consumer electronics now rely on the powerful computing capabilities that defined personal computers two decades ago. Samsung is betting that it can win a share of the music market dominated by Apple by using new software that mimics what is found in powerful PC's. The Z5, shaped like a stick of gum, has a 1.8-inch color screen and a 35-hour battery life, and is priced at $199 to $249 to compete with the iPod Nano, which costs $149 to $249. Early reviews have been positive, and Samsung is hoping that the Z5 will work smoothly with the range of subscription music services that support the Microsoft PlaysForSure digital music standard."
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Samsung Steals the Brain Behind the iPod

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  • by mswope ( 242988 ) on Monday February 27, 2006 @07:59AM (#14807342) Journal
    Z1 - Z4?
  • standard? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 27, 2006 @08:00AM (#14807347)
    Microsoft PlaysForSure digital music standard

    That word does not mean what you think it means.
  • Steal ?!? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mr Europe ( 657225 ) on Monday February 27, 2006 @08:10AM (#14807376)
    Why to use word "steal" when somebody is fed up with company "A" and moves to company "S" ? He was owned by Apple was he ?
  • Kleenex... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by canning ( 228134 ) on Monday February 27, 2006 @08:30AM (#14807423) Homepage
    The iPod is the "Kleenex" of the mp3 world. Samsung is going to have to hire more than just the programmer.

    Let be honest, it's mainly not what's in the iPod that makes it sell, it's how it looks.
  • by Nexum ( 516661 ) on Monday February 27, 2006 @08:33AM (#14807435)
    It's not about the device it's about iTunes as much as anything else. The device is just one part of the equation - this is why this product and the countless ones before it (see Sony discontinuing the 'bean', Dell discontinuing hard-drive based players etc.) will fail.

    I don't understand it sometimes... companies like Samsung have incredible resources, and could easily start to build an iTunes software competitor, which also works with PlaysForSure, rather than relying on WMP. It's just symptomatic of a 'me-too' technology industry culture that attempts to eat like a cancer at the few innovators left.

    It's not just about the iPod. iPod has powerful friends in iTunes and iTMS. You might stand a chance if you can get two competent and competitive products out of the three in the music-chain (Device-Software-OnlineStore), but concentrating on the iPod is like shooting blanks... that's not how to attack the problem.

    Dodgy Analogy: It's like in any number of old-time video games where you come up against a boss enemy, and you can expend all your ammo shooting him in the chest (iPod), but you have to go for the weakspot (eyes, exposed brain a la HL etc.) which is the rest of the chain.
  • by dimer0 ( 461593 ) on Monday February 27, 2006 @08:35AM (#14807443)
    The programming/programmer isn't what made the iPod an iPod. When I turn on one of my 3 iPods, I don't say "man, that coder sure r00leZ!".

    Something to do with style, quality, user interface, ...

  • Good for Samsung (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ROOK*CA ( 703602 ) on Monday February 27, 2006 @08:36AM (#14807445)
    Competition is always a good thing for the consumer, although given Apple's dominate position and the excellent iPod/iTMS combo it's going to be a real challenge to even come close to unseating them from the top dog position (especially given that Apple could always just start licensing Fair Play if anyone looks to be getting close). It does however appear that the Samsung device is missing a few things ... podcasts? video? (yeah I know who watches video on their little iPod screen anyways? well until you get on a plane or sit in the back seat on a long car ride). Audio Books? I for one won't be trading in my 60GB iPod anytime soon for a less capable "clone" of one, however I'm sure there's a market for this thing out there ....Somewhere.... that Steve Jobs hasn't looked yet :)
  • Re:Plays for Sure (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Haeleth ( 414428 ) on Monday February 27, 2006 @08:39AM (#14807458) Journal
    The iPod/iTunes/iTMS trinity has evolved as a natural "standard," and it's a good one.

    Can something be called a "standard" if the people who make it refuse to license it to anyone else, and indeed do everything they can to stop other people (e.g. Real) from interoperating with it?

    Sounds more like a monopoly than a standard to me.

    Apple's winning the digital music war because of good engineering

    Yeah. Sure. And not at all because their initial marketing advantage enabled them to lock in a huge customer base, who are now unable to switch away from Apple even if they want to, because their iTunes music won't work anywhere else.*

    When Microsoft pulls this kind of trick, they rightly get demonised. But apparently vendor lock-in is absolutely fine, as long as the vendor you get locked into is Apple?

    * Yes, I know all about burning it to a CD and re-ripping it to whatever format you like. Now, would you like to have to do that for a collection of 2,000-odd tracks? I thought not.
  • Re:Steal ?!? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ebooher ( 187230 ) on Monday February 27, 2006 @08:49AM (#14807499) Homepage Journal

    We, as average /. reading Joes, do not know the whole story. You can not say that he was fed up with working for Apple, because his voice isn't in the article. In this instance we are supposed to read "Steal" as Apple paying $100,000 to do a job and Samsung coming along and saying "Hey, we know you're happy over there, but see we have these buckets full of cash that are going to waste and all and ...." then offering $900,000 to do the same job.

    However, *neither* viewpoint is accurate as referenced in the article as it states that Paul Mercer was *not* working for Apple when he developed the software that ran the iPod. He owned and operated his *own* company called Pixo that was contracted to provide the software for the iPod. He did, however, work for Apple back in the System 7 days as a Programmer

    He also is not working for Samsung. His new company, Iventor, Inc., has been contracted by Samsung to provide the software for their new Z5. It's a very small thing, grammatically, but an important one.

  • by GaryPatterson ( 852699 ) on Monday February 27, 2006 @09:34AM (#14807656)
    The iPod is not a software device only - the hardware is a big part of its success.

    It doesn't take a genius to write the software for the iPod. It's well-written, yes, but my Nano has crashed a couple of times, so it's far from perfect.

    The genius of the iPod comes from the hardware - the feel of the device when you first touch it, the click wheel that controls the menus so easily and intuitively (I've seen people learn to use the iPod is ten seconds from a standing start). The software is important, but the hardware is where the genius is.

    Oh, and there's iTunes and the music store. They're good too!

    Samsung employed the wrong person. They wanted Johnathan Ives, not some developer.
  • by Slappytron ( 954489 ) on Monday February 27, 2006 @10:49AM (#14808080)
    When will Samsung and Creative learn? It's NOT all about the hardware! There's no chicken-or-egg argument, you have to have both the chicken (the digital player) AND the egg (the software and content) to succeed in this market. There are a lot of fine players that are as good or better than the iPod, but none of the music services utilizing WMA can compete with iTunes.

    The problem? This whole music subscription model. It doesn't work, because it puts the concerns of the industry ahead of the concerns of the customer. Ask 10 people, and at least 9 will say they'd prefer to own their music. This whole licensing model is based on business to business dealings - it's not going to fly with everyday consumers. Say you subscribe to Napster for a year, you spend about $100 bucks, and left with NOTHING! With iTunes, spend that same $100 bucks and have the music for a lifetime.

    Until these WMA content providers wise up and adopt the pay-to-own model, it doesn't matter what kind of player Samsung makes. Give the customers what they want and you'll succeed, as Apple has.
  • by algerath ( 955721 ) on Monday February 27, 2006 @11:04AM (#14808207)
    Ipod=mp3 player to a very large percentage of people. I saw a guy at work who had another brand player, someone asked what it was, he told them it was a (insert brand/model, i don't remember) they get a blank look, he says it's like an Ipod they say "oh, ok". I can't think of any other product that has this effect to this degree. The earlier post mentioned Kleenex, Kleenex has Puffs. Coke has Pepsi. Legos has Mega blocks. To most mp3 player=Ipod. How many other players can you identify by the earbuds? I can't with any others. It would be very hard to beat this even with a far better player. I think the only one that can kill the Ipod is Apple itself, if it does something really stupid. I don't see that happening any time soon.

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