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An Apple fanboy's lament

Macrovision's Richard Bullwinkle questions the longevity of his music collection in the digital age.

I am the consummate early adopter--collecting the latest and hottest new tech toys. I'm not easily impressed, but I do often find myself enamored by the products of one company in particular, so much that at times I fail to see the shortcomings.

There's a word for people like me--people who blindly love the products of one company or another. We call them "fanboys."

I'm an Apple fanboy. I love Apple products because they are sexy and cool. Oh, I recognize my behavior is sycophantic, but I love my Apple toys. I use them myself and give them as gifts. To date I have owned at least one of every iPod, several Mac computers, and yes, I carry an iPhone.

I've discarded perfectly good tech toys when new Apple products came out. For example, there was nothing wrong with my Blackberry Pearl. It was probably a better phone than my iPhone. With voice dial, the ability to send picture MMS messages and sync my contacts with my car over Bluetooth, it met my needs well. But it just wasn't as sexy as the iPhone. Ironically, I still carry my Blackberry for work e-mail.

Similarly, the iPod was not my first MP3 player. When I bought my iPod I knew that there were other MP3 devices that stored more songs, had better battery life, supported more music formats, and cost less money. Yet I've bought multiple iPods because, well, they are just so pretty. With all my music now in iTunes I can't imagine the pain of trying to transition to something else.

When devices are standards-based, the best solutions will still win.

So why do I continue to buy these Apple toys when I know there are better, though uglier, options? I have to really consider...what is the hidden cost of all this beauty?

If I step outside my fanboy shoes, perhaps I would discover:

• I could buy and own songs and videos that I could use on any player...not just an iPod.

• I could have an open environment to share my media content across my other entertainment devices instead of a closed environment that locks all my content in one brand.

As an early adopter, I am buying electronic media for electronic devices and decreasing the purchase of physical media like CDs and DVDs. So what will happen when I purchase digital content from iTunes and buy a new device from a company other than Apple? Will I be able to play the new content on my new devices?

Probably not.

Consumer electronics manufacturers and entertainment giants need to put the consumers first. They need to realize that "we" consumers don't want to repurchase our media for each new device that comes along. We want beautiful products that work well together and can share media. I'd like to see technology companies, including manufacturers and content creators, start working together to create standards. When devices are standards-based, the best solutions will still win.

I believe Apple will continue to build the best portable devices for quite some time. But if it builds devices that play standards-based media, and allows other brands to share that media, then it will give consumers more confidence that the media will play on all future devices that conform to that standard. With more confidence, people will buy more electronic media.

I have a vinyl copy of Yellow Submarine. It increases in value every year. If we want consumers to have faith in electronic media, they have to believe that the content they buy will last longer than the few years we've all had iPods. Maybe electronic media won't grow in value like old records, but it has to give consumers confidence that they will be able to enjoy it for years to come.