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Heeere's Roy...

Do you know what MP3 is? Are you sure? No I didn't think so. Nor did I. But you will - oh boy you really will. Because it's upsetting the music industry big time and just about everyone likes music of one kind or another. This is a big story but it will take time for everyone to realise it. Andy Grove would call it a 10x change. Here's why. Music, an analogue listening experience is now digital. You know this because you buy CDs with digitally recorded sound. But if you wanted to store your digital recordings on your hard disk in your PC it was a pain because the average two minute record could take up a LOT of hard disk space, between 17MB and 20MB. That's why blank CDs are sold as 650MB storage or 74 minutes. Then along comes MP3. This is a compression standard that allows a two minute audio track to be stored in a 4-5MB file. So a standard 650MB blank CD could hold up to 130 two-minute songs! The sound is excellent too. The effects of MP3 are however explosive. Firstly, it means that those with standard 56k modem connections can now download songs in a short time that can then be listened to via the PC or one of the new generation of stereo systems being launched in 1999 with hard disks and PC connectivity. Since there are companies like

Aureal

producing simply outstanding 3D sound chipsets the only barrier to your PC sounding like a hi-fi stereo is now the speakers. Secondly, Diamond MultiMedia (the graphics and sound card guys) has now launched

the RIO

This is a handheld device that connects to your PC to upload MP3 songs into its flash memory. You can listen to the songs just like you would a Walkman. Better still, the RIO is more robust and reliable than any Walkman -- as the songs are stored in silicon rather than a tape or CD-ROM there are no moving parts. Of course you also get to just upload your favourite tracks so you can skip the 'album fillers'. In the USA this has given the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) the screaming ad-dabs. It is going quite bonkers over MP3. It has sued Diamond and it looks set to sue anything and everyone to do with MP3 and the Internet. Someone needs to tell them that it might as well ask the sea to keep still. There are already, reportedly, five or six other manufacturers looking to make MP3 players. Frankly, I hardly expect Sony to sit still and see Diamond eat its lunch either. I suspect that Sony sells a fair few Walkmans each year. Remember my article

the Big Fat Pipe

? Well, the introduction of ADSL (or G.Lite ADSL) will make the downloading of complete record albums a matter of minutes. The RIAA is crazy to try and fight this. Instead it should embrace this new medium. It fears illegal copying, probably with good reason, but the alternative is to see ALL MP3 tracks being made illegally. Personally, if I like a song or an album then I would be happy to pay for it to support the artist but most people would agree that CDs have been massively over-priced for too long. The world is becoming a digital place. Within five years I predict that 90 per cent of all music will be sold via the internet. Too find out more and listen to some MP3 tracks yourself take a look

here

See

The mp3 scene comes of age

for a response to Roy's piece. ®

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