I don’t like shopping, but the one kind I will tolerate is hunting for tech goodies. Couple that with Black Friday deals from the comfort of my own laptop, and I’m all over it. This year, my little bro and I bought my dad a beautiful 42″ Sharp LCD 1080p TV. This of course necessitated discussions of replacing the current disc player in our family room, which, believe it or not, is actually a dual DVD/VHS player.
We were looking around at Blu-ray players, comparing and contrasting their up-converting abilities, cost, etc. One thing we talked about as a feature was WiFi/Internet-enabled Blu-ray players. This struck me as a strange idea. The advantage is, as advertised, the ability to stream content directly to the device from Amazon, NetFlix and other services. The attraction from the consumer’s standpoint is obvious (more media, in more ways) but it is a counter-intuitively strong move by manufacturers.
It is, in short, a great example of disrupting your own tech advantage, a message hammered home to me this summer by David S. Rose at Singularity University. He gave the example of Amazon disrupting big-box physical book stores like Barnes & Noble, and then even further disrupting their own very successful model (and margins) with e-book delivery via the Kindle.
But I’d say that the Blu-ray example could prove to be even more lucrative. By positioning themselves directly between the consumer and the content regardless if the data is coming from a disc or streamed off the Web, Sony et al. are ensuring that when the tipping point in data delivery arrives, they’ll be there.
There is a story in today’s New York Times about falling Blu-ray prices which touches upon the tension:
…Blu-ray manufacturers have placed themselves in a seemingly awkward position: They are selling a device that relies on people to continue to buy discs, but the same device gives them a way to download videos — bypassing the discs the machines were built to play.
But, as the article goes on the point out, this is not all bad. In fact, in my opinion, it is the kind of long-sighted planning which despite being rather rare nowadays, should pay dividends.
Compare this move to the current player in our house: it is tempting to say these are parallel examples, of devices simply looking to bridge the gap as the world moves from one standard (VHS) to another (DVD) — and now to a third (Blu-ray).
But that overlooks something very basic and very crucial: the VHS/DVD combo player was reactionary. It was something which grew out of the need to give people a way to watch both their home movies stored on VHS as well as their newest releases coming out on DVD.
The Web-enabled Blu-ray player is an entirely different set-up: it is an attempt to jump the gun (and to disrupt the Blu-ray market) just as the market itself is maturing. Only now are prices falling near the “impulse purchase” range of $100, according to the president of the Blu-ray trade group. And the mainstream switch to streamed delivery is not due for a number of years. But there it is, right now, the WiFi Blu-ray player, available at your local Best Buy, and for cheaper now than ever.
Tags: amazon, black friday, blu-ray, disruption, disruptive technology, dvd, netflix, new york times, nytimes, sharp, shopping, singularityu, sony, stream, streaming, streaming content, tv, vhs, video
I recently read two great pieces of journalism online. One was Matt Taibbi’s scathing account of Goldman Sachs’ role in various financial bubbles, published in Rolling Stone. The other was Michael Lewis’ piece on AIG and how one group there in particular figured large in the insurance giant’s fall. That one appeared in Vanity Fair.
Even as newspapers are in great number considering the return of the Pay Wall, there will always be a solution to find free content. There will always be a free and easy way to access these articles, even if Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair decide not to allow readers to see the entire articles on their websites– which in this case they did. (You’ll see, for example, the URL for the Michael Lewis piece gives a few hundred words of text and then some bullet points summarizing the rest of the article).
It seems that most content providers don’t seem to understand that cease-and-desist letters are not going to cut it. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about print/words, movies/television or music. I can point you to an endless numbers of sites to stream, download and share all sorts of media and content. It is not limited to any one medium or any one company.
Point is: unless there is some brilliant way to implement Web-wide micropayments (and even then, who knows), dropping a Pay Wall or blocking off content simply is not a smart idea.
Brief Update/Addendum: I just saw this on Mark Cuban’s blog (via @rfurlan) and I 100% agree. It doesn’t go against what I’m saying in terms of consumers, but it certainly rounds out the picture from a profit sustainability standpoint. I should also add that one final lens through which to view all this is with Chris Anderson’s new book, Free, and Malcolm Gladwell’s critical review which you can read, free of charge, here.