I have been doing a lot of travelling lately. This means I've been spending a lot of time in hotel rooms.
As an avid consumer of movies and music, I've been surprised to discover that I have been spending an equal amount of time thinking about the process to consume media, as I have had time to actually watch a movie. Beyond this I have had to purchase a pile of cabling and micro adapters just to make use the the "standard" HDMI port found on my hotel room television. Surprisingly, the most inconvenient part is deciding who to give my credit card number to and how I am going to buy the stuff I want to watch. Too many services are not compatible with each other and each other's hardware.
|See this? My phone is charging right now in a great little dock. Too bad the dock doesn't work with any other phone.|
In 2012 - Why do we need a middle man?
I am currently on the road with a company issued MacBookPro, a Blackberry Bold 9700, a Blackberry Playbook, and a Palm Pixie Plus. We have an iPad at home, as well as Windows workstations and a huge DVD, CD, and vinyl collection. In short - I already own everything I should need. I have bought the content, and I have the hardware. Piles of hardware. So much hardware, my closet is overfilling with proprietary adaptors and packaging. I have bought 6 cellphones in 9 years. And yet last night when my phone couldn't open a PDF file I think "well I guess I need to buy xxxxxxxxxxxx".
Locked to EcoSystems:
Historically consumers have been punished with inconvenient upgrade paths that forced them to buy the same thing over and over. Vinyl to CD, VHS to DVD, NES to Wii. We have all purchased something we love more than once. This came blanketed under the guise of product improvement. DVD was better than VHS so there was a discernible reason to upgrade and we all fell for it.
A quick peek at a few digital distribution services:
iTunes - great pay to play model. Huge library. Most content is not available on non-Apple devices (ie books, apps, & movies. Only music is cross-platform to an extent)
Netflix - great pay to subscribe model. Huge library. Not compatible with the Blackberry Playbook or Linux.
Amazon Prime - great pay to subscribe or purchase model. Not available when I return to Canada.
MOG - great pay to subscribe or purchase model. Great quality for streaming music. Not available when I return to Canada.
Broadcast streaming services - useless unless you have a good internet connection, ie: not hotel wifi.
Google Play - an "open" store on an "open OS". Not compatible with non-Android tablets & phones.
Zune - amazing music service, great subscription or purchase model, nice looking client. Only available for Windows.
Steam - PC & Mac game store. If you buy a game and both PC & Mac versions are available - you get both. Pretty good but it would be great if this was extended to Xbox and Playstation.
Direct from publisher.
As listed above, all current distribution models are hampered by hardware, software, and international law. Why can't I give Bioware $15 for the ability to license the videogame Bioshock? I bought the game for PC, but why would I buy it again if I wanted to get a Playstation?
As I made mention in my RIAA rant a few months back, when you "purchase" content you don't "own" anything except the physical packaging it ships with. You are simply licensed permission to playback the content on that closed system. If you are a computer programmer you are not allowed to alter the game as it ships. If you are a DJ you can't play an album at a club. If you are a video editor you can't recut a scene of your favourite movie and post it on YouTube. Think no one is keeping score? It's ok because "everyone does it anyways"? Take a look at the classic Downfall memes being pulled from YouTube, and hair-dressers putting on their favourite CD only to get fined by SOCAN.
|The Blackberry Playbook has standard ports like Micro-USB and Micro-HDMI - no need for proprietary dongles & breakout adaptors. No Netflix and no Skype applications cripple functionality.|
Light at the end of the tunnel: HTML 5
An up-and-coming web standardization of HTML 5 could potentially solve a number of problems, most notably the "app" debacle. Eventually browsers will be powerful enough to run applications - so there will no longer be need for the App Store. You could in theory get the same Angry Birds experience on your iPad, Kindle Fire, and PC - all without having to purchase the same game 3 times for 3 different platforms.
An end to hardware, a beginning to services
Now that virtually everyone owns good enough hardware - be it a computer, cellphone, tablet or game console - hopefully we'll see more standardization. I can use my Netflix account on my computer, or on a Wii at a friend's house, and the same settings, preferences, and user information carries over. This situation unfortunately happens very rarely. If you moved from an iPhone to Android and wanted all the same Apps you use, you would have to buy them again - even if it is the exact same product. Hopefully we will see a not too distant future where we have universal logins with settings and services that follow you, where ever you go. Cloud services could do this, but we are too rooted in closed system design. I don't want my Apple phone talking to my Apple computer. I want my work computer talking to my home computer talking to the computer at the library talking to my phone or whatever. Punch in one log-in and everything is there.
One service, that does everything. So I can keep buying new music, new movies, and new applications. I don't have to think about it - it just works.
That would be cool.