Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I'm so over physical media

The CD is dead.  The DVD has no interest for me.  Blueray, you're joking - right?

I stopped caring about the CD about 10 yrs ago.  They are just annoying.  Buy it.  Rip it.  Store it.  I just spent the better part of a decade waiting for the music industry to find a way to sell me mp3 files.  Even though any 12yr old from 1992 could have told them how.  Now even the mp3 is in danger in my world. 

Enter streaming music.  I thought it was pretty cool when it first appeared but streaming music was something that could only be done where there was significant bandwidth.  The streams on my dial-up connection sounded horrible and it completely monopolized the connection.  Now I write this as Pandora plays a station of my design.  Later on I'll listen to a streaming podcast as I walk the dog.

Sirius and XM really pushed me over the edge.  Streaming music to me wherever I was (as long as that was my car, home or office).  Now streaming music is available everywhere.  On my TV.  My computer.  Even on my "phone".  The latter is a game changer.  With the advent of broadband to my phone - and services like Pandora, Rhapsody, and Slacker that tailor the music to my tastes.  Why would I even purchase mp3's - even now that they seem to have gotten the selling part mostly figured out.  Streaming to my phone is so handy and natural - I've turned off 2 of my 3 xm radios and the last one is in danger as I have not listened to it in weeks.  The moment that Slacker or some other service enables caching of stations on Android - My XM radios will go into storage.  Probably in the same cabinet with all those CDs.   (Slacker released a new Android client that caches - even as I was working on this post)

I think it's funny that streaming music seems to have followed the same pattern as the telephone.  First it was just a few folks that had it in their home.  Then it became a norm to have it at home and in the car.  Now it's making the move to everyone's pocket.

Music was first.  Movies are next.  The DVD is fast on it's way out in my house.  I keep a basic Netflix account mostly for access to the streaming service.  The movie I watched last night came in the form of an on-demand movie from my cable provider.  I can't imagine how Blockbuster and Hollywood keep the doors open.  This business is still in it's infancy but it's just a matter of time before a movie rental membership will mean a monthly fee that gives you access to a certain number of streaming rentals a month.  That reminds me - I need to go mail in the DVD Netflix sent me 3 weeks ago.  I can't even keep a movie queue going on Netflix anymore because I normally see the movies via some streaming source before they can send me the physical disk.  I keep waiting on a "streaming only" option.

Now the dumbass movie industry (sorry - they are) wants me to purchase a Blueray player.  Why? The dumbass studios think that I will just chuck all of those DVDs I've already purchased generating huge revenue.  Plus the even dumber-ass MPAA is convinced that this time no one will be able to crack their copy protection scheme. Where have we heard that before.

Streaming media will make Blueray irrelevant.  It's already NOT catching on.  Pretty much the only market for the disks are PS3 owners.  I mean really - if you have a PS3 and you are going to actually purchase physical media, why not.  It does look better.  Good enough in fact to expose most special effects as fake, and show you the pores, laugh lines, and bad makeup jobs on all the actors.   My recommendation - save the money you would drop on a blueray player and get a Boxee Box when they come out later this year.

The downsides to all of this:  The industries trying to hang onto their old business models.  Look for the record labels to have a conniption over streaming music in the near future. When they realize that streaming makes them irrelevant.  Who needs a physical distribution and marketing layer for a product that no longer exists (physical CDs in this case).  I'm also not looking forward to the day that the movie studios start forcing the streaming providers to insert the 10min of ads, trailers, and copyright warnings at the front of every movie. 

The other downside.  Bandwidth - or the lack of it.  It's already a problem.  I have an average cable modem connection.  I use it all day for work and then all evening for entertainment.  During the work day - when everyone else is at the office - I see an average of 8mb downstream.   About 4:30 it starts to decline.  Around 7pm I'm lucky to get around 1mb.   A year ago I could watch a Netflix stream in HD or on the highest quality every time.  Now - unless it's during off hours a stream will normally change bit-rates at least 3 or 4 times per film and rarely reaches the highest levels.

As cable providers move more and more towards on-demand type of services this will get worse.  The new DOCIS 3 cable standard becomes a must-do.  I have no idea how Dish and DirecTV will cope.  Well - I'm off to play on X-box live.  Wish me luck!

Update: Walmart buys VuDu streaming service.

No comments: