I'm still a huge evangelist for the Rio Karma. At its price point, the Karma is, in my opinion, the best hard disk portable media player on the market. But that's all it is, a media player. What makes me envious of the iPod is its status as a consumer electronic device platform. With the Karma, I might add a better set of headphones, but I'm never going to add any functionality unless Rio includes it in a firmware upgrade. The iPod is different. It offers both software and hardware functionality I can only dream of getting from another device.
Take the Digital Camera Link from Belkin for instance. With this device, iPod users simply connect their iPod to any digital camera and transfer photos from the flash card to the iPod's hard drive. If the camera gets full while you are out in the field, this is a great solution for archiving pictures before taking more. Where is the camera link for my Karma? I can use the Karma as a mass storage device, so in theory, something like this should be possible. The list of cool software add-ons for the iPod is too long to review in its entirety: calendar info, tasks, contacts, and on and on...
The only other player family with this level of feature detail is the Archos line. Archos makes the mistake of building clunky add-ons in house, instead of letting the market innovate with an exposed development platform, but at least they are creating options for customers. When will the rest of the device market wake up and start making it easy to add functionality to portable devices? Sure Rio, Samsung, iRiver, and the rest of the portable manufacturers want us to upgrade to the next best thing, but even then we don't get the equivalent of 3rd party iPod add-ons.
Popular tech media makes the iPod war out to be a Mac vs. Windows contest. Sure, the audio formats offered to consumers for the iPod are proprietary and won't play outside of QuickTime integrated apps like iTunes, but as consumers, we don't really care what the format of a file is as long as it works right? We want more useful features. We want to make it seamless to take a device from the car, to the house, to the gym, and if the device makes other aspects of life easier, then its more likely we will evangelize and tell our friends.
What portable media player do you use? What is one feature you wish it had?