If I were stranded on a desert island and could only have one which would it be? That's a very hard choice, which shows how equally brilliant both products are. Once you've had them, there's no going back. That's interesting to me, because they are really just high tech versions of our old friends the VCR and the Walk-Man, which I've owned before and subsequently gone without in the lean college years with little hand-wringing.
In talking about either of them to my low-tech parents it's hard for me to explain why they are so life-changing. They tend to respond with questions like, "Isn't that what a VCR is for?" or "Why do I want to carry around all my music again?" Mostly, they just nod and smile.
The best way I can describe it to them is drawing an analogy to broadband vs. dial up. It's not just that you get stuff faster- it totally changes the way you use the Internet. It's now your newspaper, yellow pages, and increasingly, telephone. TiVo has totally changed the way I watch TV and ditto for the iPod and music. (I imagine I'd feel the same way about a Blackberry if BusinessWeek would buy me one...) It's no wonder VCs are getting the consumer electronics bug again with all this life-changing-ness going around.
So, I think a lot about the difference in success of the iPod and TiVo, given how much they share in common. (Yes, I know there is a big difference between Apple being behind one and a start-up being behind the other, but surely it’s more than that.) On the downside, why they are so great is hard to explain to someone outside the Silicon Valley zeitgeist and on the upside, they inspire such obsessive loyalty.
This isn't exactly a new thought, I know, but this article from Wired had me thinking about it again. It’s about Microsoft employees having to hide their love of their iPods to get ahead. First of all, it's enormously entertaining (really more so than my ramblings here). And it exemplifies the differences between the two: the iPod is light years ahead of any competition while TiVo-like devices are fast on the way to becoming a commodity.