I was thinking about music recommendation sites/engines (which seem to be all the rage nowadays) as well as the proliferation of iPods (and iTunes users) and the fact that the Zune thinks it so cool because it does some sort of simple sharing (which is supposedly “social” in nature.)
So if it really is “all about the playlist” (I think Lucas Gonze said this once, so I’ll give him credit) why doesn’t Apple follow through… Here’s my thought:
If you’ve got an iPod, chances really good that you use iTunes. iTunes does playlists. It can even do things like make a smart playlist of tracks you have recently played, and feed them back to a service like last.fm, which can show you neat stuff like what you listen to the most, what your friends are listening to, who your musical neighbors are, etc. last.fm doesn’t really feed back to iTunes or your iPod though – here’s where Apple could step in…
Let’s say that your iPod feeds back to Apple’s iTunes Music Store the tracks you’ve played, and does the “people who like X also like Y” thing, but then also provided samples (low bitrate, 30 second preview, whatever) back to you as downloads in iTunes (heck, they could be automated, podcast-style) which then get synced to your iPod. So each day you sync and get something new, of which you might want to purchase.
This is just a rough idea, I’m sure Apple could create a good experience for sharing playlist data, and recommending music.
I know there are sites that do somewhat similar things for podcasts (AmigoFish, GigaDial) but they require some sort of manual labor on the user’s part. Automation and simplicity would be the key though, provide benefits to the users without forcing them to do any/much work.