Disintermediating the entertainment industry

I’ve been thinking a lot about “entertainment content”, people’s increasing demands for what they want / when they want it, and the proliferating host of gadgets that are on the market. I mean, we have a “phone”, a “tv”, and “ipad”, etc etc. There have been fits and starts towards true convergence for years now…I wasn’t sure if it was going to be the computer people being the convergence drivers (the Origami micro PC was an attempt a few years ago), or the phone people, or the television people – as it turns out, the “phones” are where convergence has come from.

….At any rate, and despite all the convergence gadgets, entertainment content is still being delivered in a really channeled manner. I pay for tv, for my Internet enabled phone  (where I can stream tv shows), for Internet access and then Netflix for their streaming entertainment, and for the most part these four (TV, phone, Internet, Netflix) are four access point for the same content. This is obviously not efficient.

I’m waiting for the day when I pay for one access point – and I think it will be through the phone. As soon as what we now call a “phone” is able to act as the funnel point for my entertainment needs and then send the information to the output device which is set up to interact with that data, the need for all these others will vanish. So – I will choose what I want to watch (when I want to watch it), tell the phone to stream it and output to the large screen on my wall. Or I will tell it to connect to a keyboard, and an external screen then work on a Word document.

I understand that this all has challenges: besides the obvious current bandwidth issues of the “phone” device (which can be solved), there’s the challenges that the entertainment content people (20th Century Fox, etc) face in their current agreements with the existing/legacy distribution channels. The entire industry will be turned upside down, and every tier of the chain is madly scrambling to figure out how to manage what’s happening. But it will happen because the people who have the most to gain – the phone companies – will push for it and have the fledgling support of consumers who are flocking to smart phones to back up their push.

I’ll talk about how cloud storage is also going to enable these developments in another post….as well as how consumer demand for instant gratification is one of the biggest drivers behind all of this.

And also the ramification for brands and advertising. Which is huge.

Update 1/8/2011: At CES, Motorola unveiled the Atrix Superphone, which has docking capabilities that allow you to use it with a mouse and a keyboard as if it were a normal computer (with 4G capabilities and a dual-core Tegra 2 processor – yee haw!). Not only can they now run Word, Excel, etc AND communicate AND surf the internet AND stream entertainment etc etc – the only thing keeping this from happening was interface and processing power. With cloud storage local memory won’t be needed (you stream it from your virtual memory on demand). Watch out laptop manufacturers – this is going to make you as obsolete as you did the traditional computer towers.

The copyright paradigm shift

A video clip was going viral today on Facebook (maybe elsewhere too): Banksy’s intro to the Simpsons episode last night. Pure genius. Problem is, within hours 20th Century Fox – the owners of the content – had pulled it from YouTube.

Can’t for the life of me figure out why. It’s not like anyone is going to buy the introduction to a TV show, and indeed, it’s great PR that showcases the brilliance and satire of the tv show itself. One would think you’d want as many people as possible to see it.

Not only that, of course it’s impossible to control it from being reposted. When will these media companies understand the new paradigm that is entertainment distribution? Boggles the mind.

And so, for your viewing please, here’s at least one link where you can still see it: http://tiny.cc/6hap4

Blurring the line (channeling Neo): Virtual relationships

This is fascinating: www.psfk.com/2010/09/japanese-men-enjoying-their-holidays-with-virtual-girlfriends.html

Japanese Men Enjoying Their Resort Holidays With Virtual Girlfriends

Yes, you read that correctly: There’s a hotel in Japan catering to men and not real women.

“Japan’s resort town of Atami held an interesting yet unusual promotional campaign last month to draw in tourists-customized packages for Japanese men who come with their virtual girlfriends.

These girlfriends are videogame characters from the hit dating-simulation game LovePlus+ and cater to men who are lonely and miss having a girl by their side. Users carry their girlfriends in a game device that recreates the actual experience of a romance and relationship.”

Increasingly people seem to be blurring the line between the virtual and “real”. My pet theory on this one is that people don’t have the patience – or bandwidth – to put effort into developing real relationships (nasty, time consuming, and impossible to control things that they are). How much more perfect than having a girlfriend (or boyfriend, or self created alien!) who does whatever you want?

And how will this trend impact on the real world? Are people going to keep retreating into their own, self created (and totally controlled) worlds at the expense of “real”? It reminds me of Solaris, that planet created by Asimov where contact between humans is distasteful and (life like – we’re getting there) robots serve every whim.

…and if you’re curious, Asimov’s Robot/Foundation Series are well worth reading – particularly, in my opinion, The Caves of Steel  and The Naked Sun.

Developing the Grand Unified Theory

I muse on the intersection of three subjects constantly:

  • Technology: I’m fascinated by how we use it, interact with each other using it, and how it’s changing us.
  • Culture: That amorphous, nebulous, indescribable water we swim in.
  • Psychology: Fascinating. How our brains develop and work. Nature vs nurture. Universal stuff inherent to being mammalian animals. Interpreted locally by culture.

In this blog I’m going to muse and opine on the strategic direction of technology, and where I think it’s going – based on the key input from the other two subjects (and any others that take my fancy). Crystal ball read. Touch the future.

I’ve been working in technology-related industries for 18 years or so now, consulting to a variety of companies on how emerging technologies are impacting on their markets – and helping them figure out what to do to stay competitive. It’s a cool space.