French media company Thomson has announced a new music file format called MP3HD. Unlike what you might expect from the term HD – 5.1 sound, for example – this new file format is a wrapper for two files, a lossless file and a normal MP3 file. It still has the .mp3 file extension, and can be played by current MP3 players. But there’s a problem: when you copy one of these files to your MP3 player, you’re copying both the lossy and the lossless file. You’re thereby wasting space on your player (lossless files average about 1/3 to 1/2 the size of uncompressed files, or about 250 – 400 MB per CD).
Now, what would be really interesting is if Apple could come up with a way to bundle files in Apple Lossless format together with standard AAC files, similar in the way they provide HD TV shows from the iTunes store. When you download one of these TV shows in HD, you actually get two files: while they appear as a single entry in iTunes, you are storing, on your computer, both an HD copy and an SD copy. iTunes knows to copy the SD file to your iPod, but it can play the HD copy on your computer or your Apple TV. If something similar could be done for music files, Apple could let you use Apple Lossless files (if you really see the need) on your computer, or streamed to, say, an AirPort Express, and copy the lossy files to your iPod.
But this MP3 idea is pretty much brain-dead. The idea of copying a larger, unplayable file to an MP3 player just because you can is stupid and will certainly not catch on.