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The true story of Audion

The true story of Audion. An independent Mac software developer loving tells the story of the little MP3 player that could. Worth a read.

Reader comments

JasonNov 12, 2004 at 10:15AM

BY far, the best part of that is the slowed-down MP3 of Alvin and the Chipmunks; if that doesn't make you feel all creepy and crawly, then something's wrong with you. :)

MikeNov 12, 2004 at 10:46AM

I Panic. You might also enjoy their short essay on Beagle Bros.

MikeNov 12, 2004 at 10:48AM

oops. I meant I love Panic. Though sometimes I do Panic...

~bcNov 12, 2004 at 10:59AM

I enjoyed the story immensely. I paid as much to support Panic, than for Audion 1. I like their company, attitude, and the way they make Mac software right. If you're not a mac owner, the story is intriguing enough to stand on its own.

jkottkeNov 12, 2004 at 11:04AM

As much as I liked the story, I feel like they let Apple off the hook a bit with regard to the DRM built into iTunes:

In short, there are good features [i.e. M4P decoding] in iTunes that, unlike the good old days, we physically can't add to Audion, for (reasonable) Apple security reasons.

In my mind, the use of DRM to discourage media buyers from sharing their digital files with others is questionable, but it really sucks that a side effect of using it (which works very much in Apple's favor) stifles their competition. When everything (music files, photos, video, etc.) in OS X is locked down with DRM, how can independent software developers develop robust media applications that compete with Apple's applications?

Eric BostromNov 12, 2004 at 12:27PM

"When everything (music files, photos, video, etc.) in OS X is locked down with DRM, how can independent software developers develop robust media applications that compete with Apple's applications?"

They can't, which I guess makes Apple in the business to make money for Apple. Not third party software manufacturers. This was an interesting read and I'm glad they decided to stay true to themselves and their hobby.

Cabel SasserNov 12, 2004 at 1:24PM

Thanks for reading the (long) story!

And Jason, in retrospect, I agree. In the section about the "technical challenges of competing with iTunes", I feel I should have called them out a bit more for keeping so much stuff closed. I almost feel like revising it, but I think that's bad writer form -- although, not being close to a professional writer, I have no idea if that's true. :)

To be honest, the only thing that held me back was that I suspect if we were really serious about it, we probably could have contacted Apple, made our way through the Maze of Doom, found the right people, and probably somehow gotten them to give us the bits necessary to make it work -- of course, that's an unproven theory. Or my hopeless optimism kicking in again. But it seems like with enough dedication and string-pulling we could have worked with them somehow. The question is, then, why make it so difficult, Apple? Alas.

The other thing worth noting is that, like I said, Quicktime DOES let third party apps play .m4p files, but in a very limited way -- you can basically just say "Start", "Stop", "Move Around", etc. You can't say "Give Me The Audion Data". Interestingly, in early versions of Panther around the time of last WWDC, a member of the Quicktime team assured us that they WOULD add support for the raw .m4p stream, and even gave us some technical details on how it would work. Unsurprisingly, despite our frequent inquiries, it never made it into the finished shipping product -- because, of course, five seconds later, someone would write a "take the raw .m4p audio stream and save it to an unprotected .mp3" converter in about 10 lines of code. Sigh.

Anyway, great point. I'm glad you guys enjoyed the story. It's been a crazy day. :)

-Cabel / Panic

BryceNov 12, 2004 at 2:43PM

Nah, that's not the best part. The best part is Cabel and Steven's indefatigable attitude. That's a fantastic story, and really affirming -- most people would be simultaneously proud and crushed to be the near-architects of iTunes. It says a lot to me that Panic treats it as just another episode in a colored past. Those guys make great software, and are great communicators as well.

(And, okay - my favorite part is the gad-awful guitarist singing 'Soundjam' at MacWorld. What the hell was C&G thinking?)

gwintNov 12, 2004 at 2:50PM

The article made me feel even better about having purchased both Audion (1.0!) and Transmit. I'm certainly curious to know what their next app will be...

Jerry KindallNov 12, 2004 at 4:50PM

Couldn't Audion have used the VLC libraries for protected AAC playback, or perhaps just temporarily hymn'd them? There's also a program for getting the encryption keys directly from Apple over the Internet. But then of course you're dependent on third parties to keep up with what Apple does, which is twice as bad as having to keep up with what Apple does yourself...

This thread is closed to new comments. Thanks to everyone who responded.