Devices, Media and The Consumer

I recently moved my iTunes library – which includes all my music as well as iPhone and iPad apps – to Dropbox, an online file synchronization service, for two simple reasons: 1. To ensure it was backed up to an offsite location; and 2. To automatically synchronize it between multiple laptops (Apple’s “home sharing” system being pretty feeble at actually keping multiple machines in sync).

Media-device and web-service proliferation is already becoming a reality. Here are some of the devices and services many people are using:

  • Full-size laptop / desktop computer
  • Netbook, tablet and/or mini-laptop
  • eReader
  • Full size iPod / MP3 player for house or car
  • Micro/wearable iPod / MP3 player for walking / running / biking
  • Smartphone(s)
  • Feature phone(s)
  • Portable video players
  • Home TV-based video storage and player / set-top-box / DVD-player (Tivo, Apple-TV, Roku etc.)
  • Facebook (key location for photos and videos)
  • Twitter, Tumblr or other micro/mini blogs
  • GMail or other email service

The range of digital media potentially needing storage, and/or needing to be accessible across multiple devices, also proliferates:

  • Music files
  • Apps (for many platforms…)
  • Photos
  • Videos (self-shot)
  • Professional video including TV and Movies, DVDs and Blu-Ray
  • eBooks
  • Documents
  • Communications – Email, IM/chat, SMS, tweets, blogs
  • Other personal information – calendar, contacts, to-do-list
  • Web-service subscriptions

I find myself using DropBox for documents and videos – it does a good job being accessible from most devices.

I use Picassa for photo and video storage.

Nothing for professional video – TV/movies – I just have a Sony BluRay player.

My communications – email, IM, blogs – plus personal info – calendar, contacts – are done on the web (GMail, Skype, WordPress, Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr). Is it noteworthy that they are not backed up – if wordpress.com looses this blog, or GMail looses my email, I have no copy of it?

Many people are expecting streaming content to overtake stored content for professional music and video. Apple has always resisted Blu-ray disk support for this reason, believing that streaming should overwhelm Blu-ray. And streaming music is making some inroads in Europe (Spotify). Yet the digital-rights-management required by content providers is a huge barrier; and where traditional media delivery companies (Comcast) are integrated with content providers (E!, Style Network, G4, The Golf Channel, Versus, NBC), it becomes doubly challenging, since the content providers have a vested interest in maintaining the profitability of the traditional distribution method and holding back the rise of Internet streaming.

Even so – surely there must be some way to control this proliferation of content, devices, and delivery mechanisms? Clearly, the average user doesn’t have time for it. Streaming surely must play a part. It could be personal streaming, where the user keeps their content library in the cloud and can stream it anywhere; or it could be professional streaming that connects to hosted content (as Netflix is doing now); or a combination.

Could back-up be a way-in for a startup? For instance, backing up GMail so that I’m not at the mercy of Google’s backup strategies (if they have any). While I think backup could be part of the story, I’m skeptical that it is a strong-enough motivation – people find it to easy to ignore until the worst happens. I think that i) universal access (any device); and ii) Organizing media and communication in one place are the real drivers, with backup coming in third. Perhaps it’s notable that Dropbox have taken this kind of approach with documents, and Picassa with photos – they emphasize access, and sharing, over backup, even though backup is more-or-less explicit part of the offer too.

Perhaps there’s something in the “personal streaming” – perhaps intersecting with the rise of HTML-5 technologies, so you play on any web-enabled device?

Needs more thought to become an actual start-up idea.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Devices, Media and The Consumer

  1. mcale

    I am innately suspicious of everything saved “in the cloud”, not least since my Yahoo email was hacked and everything stolen. Yahoo claimed to be able to restore all the lost email if they received a request within 24 hours. I made the request as soon as I spotted it – about five hours after the incident – and then again after about 18 hours. Nothing happened. Three days later, I got a message from “customer service” asking if I had been satisfied with my service. You can imagine the response I sent.

    I am now using Google Calendar instead of the trusty paper, wall-mounted version (which is always available, unlike Google Calendar, a horribly buggy product that often fails to load one or more of the calendars I use). I fear everything will disappear one day, and I’ll just get the Yahoo-style response. So I am planning to print it out periodically. Bad for trees, but good for stopping sleepless nights. Sometimes the old fashioned forms of “back up” are the best.

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