By Ryan Bradley, senior editor
FORTUNE -- Jawbone, the bluetooth headset, health band, and speaker company, came out with a new speaker yesterday. It's smaller than the two other speakers Jawbone already makes -- half as small, in fact, as its predecessor, the Jambox, which is the bestselling speaker in its category -- and it comes in a choice of nine colors. Made out of a solid piece of aluminum that's both skin and skeleton, the new speaker, called the Mini Jambox, has a built-in battery that lasts 10 hours, and it's light enough (9 oz., or roughly the size and weight of two Hershey bars) to throw into a bag and carry anywhere.
Though the Mini costs as much ($179) as the first-generation Jambox, the company claims it "packs more volume" and has "even better audio clarity." There's the two-cent review -- pretty much all you need to know about the product itself.
But to stop there misses the point of something greater that Jawbone -- and all interesting companies that make things in the hopes that we, the consumer, will buy them -- is up to. Travis Bogard, who oversees product development at Jambox, put it like this: "How a product fits into your life is as important to us as the product itself."
The challenge to get a product to fit into people's lives, of course, goes far beyond just making it smaller or more portable. In fact, though the company claims the Mini Jambox is about half the size as the original Jambox, its footprint is similar. The Mini is narrower and lighter, sure, but not dramatically so. Its real virtue is more subtle: It is incredibly good at connecting wirelessly to other machines. No trivial thing, that.
A huge part of Apple's (AAPL) success has been due to how easy the company has made it to connect one of its devices to another. Once you get locked in to Apple you are, well, locked in. The ease with which one is able to adjust settings on your iPhone through your MacBook or share a file with your iPad, or maybe have it project on your television via Apple TV, is really the killer aspect of the Apple ecosystem, and the quality that keeps its customers so rabidly loyal.
Jawbone's previous speakers were pretty good at connecting to phones, tablets, and laptops as well. But to adjust the settings of the speakers required plugging it into a computer, then connecting to the Internet and pulling up the company's website -- a cumbersome process for a product that's, in theory, all about wire-cutting. Along with the release of the Mini, Jawbone is releasing the Jawbone App, which is both a fix to this and a shot across the bow to every other music service.
With the Jawbone App, which Bogart demonstrated for me, you can not only adjust the speaker's settings wirelessly, but also store playlists from iTunes, Spotify, and Rdio in a single interface. The idea is that this is the destination for your media listening on the go. The app wasn't yet available to the public, but I did take the Mini down to Mississippi with me over Labor Day weekend for a friend's wedding, and one moment stands out:
It was well after midnight, still hot, and a bunch of us were sitting around the stoop of the King Edward Hotel in downtown Jackson, beer sweating in the warm southern night. Out comes the Jambox; on goes the Bo Diddley. People picked up the speaker -- it's cool-looking and cool to the touch. Eventually I stood up to turn in. As I did, a friend connected his phone to the speaker, taking control of the tunes. The music didn't skip a beat, even though his phone used an entirely different operating system (Google's Android (GOOG)) than my iPhone. The switch happened in just a few seconds, with no one but the two of us noticing. It felt a little bit like magic: our three different machines, acting in concert, communicating to make music and send it out into the hot Mississippi night.
As digital delivery eats away at music royalties, performing rights organization ASCAP is seeing a boom in membership.
By Heather Muse, editor
FORTUNE -- Just a decade ago, music streaming services like Spotify and Pandora seemed like a pipe dream: vast libraries of legal music that could be accessed with just a computer or phone. With Google entering the fray earlier this month with its Play Music All Access music service, MOREMay 28, 2013 9:39 AM ET
Dave Smith should be a billionaire. He invented the world's most widely used music technology. Instead, he's relatively unknown - and it doesn't bother him.
By Kurt Wagner, reporter
FORTUNE -- Dave Smith should be a billionaire or, at least, a mega-millionaire well into early retirement. He should be hitting the links three times a week, taking his yacht out into The Bay, and "dabbling" in angel investing in his spare time. MOREApr 11, 2013 10:15 AM ET
Adding YouTube to Billboard's Hot 100 singles chart almost guarantees that record companies will try even harder to force songs to go viral.
FORTUNE -- The "observer effect" is present in media just as it is in physics: The act of observing (or measuring) something always affects the thing being observed. In the case of Billboard adding YouTube videos to its Hot 100 chart of top singles, that means that even MOREDan Mitchell, contributor - Feb 22, 2013 7:40 AM ET
Why is Apple fighting so hard to keep two-year-old court records sealed?
FORTUNE -- The first thing you learned when you sat down with Steve Jobs was that the interview was off the record. And it stayed off the record. No matter how innocuous the quote, no matter how much time had passed, Apple (AAPL) public relations wouldn't let you use it.
So it doesn't surprise me to learn from a story MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - May 1, 2012 6:39 AM ET
One of Apple's most serious challenges in the digital music market is giving up
"After eight years in business, the Walmart Music Downloads Store located at mp3.walmart.com will close on August 28, 2011. All content in the Store will be disabled and no longer available for download from the store."
So begins the certified letter sent to Walmart's (WMT) distribution and licensing partners and posted Tuesday by Digital Music News. The death MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Aug 10, 2011 7:18 AM ET
Daniel Ek, the CEO of the online music service Spotify, has ambitious plans for penetrating the U.S. market. Profitability, for now, isn't a concern.
FORTUNE -- One week after Spotify launched in the U.S., CEO and co-founder Daniel Ek discussed his company's rapid growth at Brainstorm Tech in Aspen, Colo.
The simple, legal "all-you-can-eat" music service has made waves in parts of Europe with a freemium model that lets users listen to MOREJP Mangalindan, Writer - Jul 21, 2011 1:59 PM ET
A snapshot -- by revenue stream -- of an extraordinary quarter
Asymco's Horace Dediu is still trying to wrap his head around the earnings report that Apple (AAPL) issued Tuesday, in which the company announced that it had made more money in its June quarter than it did in December, even without a new iPhone.
But one thing, he says, is clear:
"One of the most common themes during the last year was MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Jul 20, 2011 1:07 PM ET
Steve Jobs' master plan to draw a generation raised on stolen music into the iTunes store
Of the 5,364 items in my iTunes music library, 143 are songs I purchased on Apple's (AAPL) iTunes store. The vast majority were ripped from my old CD collection. A few were obtained by other means.
My children have even larger digital music collections that they store on iTunes and play on their Apple devices. I MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Jun 7, 2011 7:16 AM ET
A flurry of last-minute music industry deal-making, a cloud of confusion
You might think that Apple (AAPL), having labored for more than a year to get its new music and video streaming service -- dubbed iCloud -- ready for prime time, would have nailed down the necessary digital rights before making any public announcements.
But that's not the way negotiations work, especially in the entertainment industry. So it wasn't until Thursday, with MOREPhilip Elmer-DeWitt - Jun 3, 2011 6:38 AM ET
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