A coworker here was thinking about getting an iPod Nano. My best friend ordered one the day they were announced and I got to see it a bit this weekend. Side note – we were at a resturant and I was playing with it, and the waitress came over to talk to us about it and was telling us how she just got hers and totally loves it, and wanted to know if i liked mine, to which i sheepishly replied that it belonged to my friend.
In any case, the thing is tiny. The display is beautiful, the interface works how you’d expect. It has the ability to store vCards and other cool stuff.
So my co-worker asked “do you need iTunes to sync to it?”. I didn’t know. My friend figured you didn’t, and that it just showed up as a mass storage device. Sweet. But before I told my coworker about this, i figured i had better look into it myself.
So later this weekend i hooked the thing into my XP SP2 machine via USB cable. It showed up as a disk, and when I went to explore that disk, it had folders for eTexts, vCards, and calender appointments. Nothing about music. There is a hidden folder called something like “itunes data” and if you explore it, you find a few index files and album art collections and other stuff, and eventually you get to a folder that contains what appear to be the song files – they have .mp3 and .aac (or whatever they are) extensions on them.
The problem is that these files all have 4 letter names.. there’s no effective way to look through this folder and figure out what the songs are. The containing folder heirarchy is also broken down into arbitrary folders.. something like M1 through M6 on this particular unit.
The ipod apparently has a media database that it uses to let you navigate its menus, and as part of putting songs on it, you’re updating this database, and during that time, turning the proper filenames into hash names and then recording those hashnames in the database.
While i can understand the design decision to have an offboard index calculator (itunes), it stinks that getting media into or out of this thing is more difficult than it needs to be.
I can think of two or three people that would be more interested in the iPod Nano if they didn’t need to use iTunes to deal with it. Not that Apple should worry about what 2 or 3 people want, but I suspect there are more pro-Ipod, anti-iTunes people out there.