Apple's Digital Hub More than Hype

by Derrick Story

While I was teaching a mobile multimedia class at CMP's recent WEB2001 conference in San Francisco, I alluded to Apple's "Digital Hub" concept. I was actually trying to make a point about how easy it is these days to move digital images from device to device.

But a number of people in the class wanted more information about this "hub" concept ... so off we went.

In case you haven't tripped across this term lately, it's the notion that the PC is alive and well, and that it resides at the center of your digital universe. Through high speed connectivity such as FireWire, USB, PC cards, and 802.11b, you move multimedia files from cameras, DV recorders, scanners, and MP3 players to Apple (or Sony) computers.

When Steve Jobs first pitched this concept at a MacWorld keynote in 2000, I thought is was mostly marketing hype to assure us that it's OK to continue to buy Apple hardware. But in the ensuing months, both Apple and Sony have proved they are committed to this concept, and even more important, it does seem valuable to consumers.

How has Apple walked this talk? It started with their putting FireWire and USB connectivity in every computer they make. Then they released, free of charge, software to connect digital devices to their computers. iTunes, iMovie, and iDVD are easy to use and handy. I can move digital photos, movies, and music easily from my devices to my Mac.

Now it looks like Apple is ready to add another device to their digital hub -- the rumored iPod will most likely be announced early next week. Some people think it is a FireWire portable that interfaces with iTunes for MP3 playback on the go. We'll see.

What is clear is that there seems to be some merit to having an Apple or Sony computer (depending on your OS preferences) at the center of your digital universe if you're a gadget fan who enjoys these toys.

OK, Sony ... what do you have up your sleeve?

Do you think Apple and Sony are on to something here?