As we suggested in our previous post 'Treo 600 Music Quest' consumers should be able (and want to be able) to repurpose their digital media content on any platform so the recent announcement by RealNetworks of the introduction of its 'Harmony Technology' came as a welcome surprise.
As I discussed two weeks ago:
"While we're on the subject of music, I really thought that I should bring up an idea that I have been thinking about for some time and which Photo Matt recently wrote about that I think is a superb (if perhaps somewhat impractical) idea. Essentially the suggestion is that if you buy an album on iTunes or another digital music store that you also get a hard copy of the CD shipped to you (or vice-versa, buy it at Tower Records and get the MP3 download version as a bonus for free!).
Take this one step further and you wonder why this is not being used to promote the faster adoption of eBooks (which as I've stated before I'm beginning to find addictive) by allowing you to purchase a digital copy of a book like 'The American Prophecies' for $1.00 if you purchase the hard-copy for example.
You must consider that the implications of this go well beyond just music and could impact the entire transition from physical to digital entertainment products. Why for example could we not buy a DVD of say the Star Wars Trilogy and then for a small additional fee (or subscription) get a Palm version to watch on our Treo 600 or a Portable Media Player.
Projecting into the future where we can watch movies on our television, mobile phone, laptop, desktop, portable media player, portable games device and probably countless others that don't yet exist, will we really buy a movie that can only be played on one device? Of course not, once it's digital we should be able to easily choose which device we want to play any digital media on without tedious restrictions of file compatibility or other. This is the same reason that people are unlikely to buy two copies of the same movie but one on DVD and the other on VHS - now really what would be the point of that?! If consumer and computer electronics companies want to increase the sale of their devices they need to sort out the digital content equation first (and fast).
Yes, I agree with you, what a wondrous mess this whole digital convergence is likely to be... but eventually smart entrepreneurs will come and provide us all with a great solution and we'll be able to finally enjoy our music, movies, games, etc. anytime, anywhere and on any device we want."
However, at present this idea of 'repurposing' content is exactly what content owners absolutely, positively, 100% do not want us to do. Why? Because someone somewhere dreamed a beautiful business plan (but deeply flawed in the practical aspects of business) where we would be buying a DVD for our DVD player, a digital copy for our PC, yet another for our Treo 600, and on and on ringing a cash register at every step... As I've stated before, can anybody genuinely tell me how many people will go for this nonsense? I guess that common sense is not something currently being imparted in business schools!
One of the most intelligent commentary that I have read on the topic came as Richard Wolpert the Chief Strategy Officer of RealNetworks recently higlighted at the Jupiter Plug.IN conference: "Incompatible media players are becoming a drag on adoption rates and growth curves. The music industry still has to focus on making sharing music among a variety of devices as easy on the consumer as possible. No more if you buy this, you can only play it with this device -- that's confusing for people and a concern of music labels. Current device/store incompatibility will slow adoption." Thank God, at least someone is thinking straight...
Strauss Zelnick, the CEO of media company ZelnickMedia, also had some extremely insightful comments when he stated that: "the four main trends that are driving true media convergence have begun to accelerate along with the economic recovery: digitization of media, globalization of that media, consolidation of media ownership, and conversely, fragmentation of audiences with the proliferation of new media channels." He goes on to say: "[Digital Convergence] will link billions of people, not just with words, but with music, video and other media. This will usher in possibly the most creative and disruptive time in the last 50 years of the media business."
Judging by all the dis-harmony that Real's 'Harmony' is generating it is obvious that companies are still not focusing on the key stakeholder: the customer. All the battles to create technology 'lock-in' diminish the focus on delivering superior value propositions and customer experiences by other means - everyone wants to take the easy route...