Monday, January 26, 2009

Digital Changes Driven By Hard Times

In tough times people take different choices and are often more discretionary in their spending. Do you buy a new laptop with full-features, or a basic no frills notebook, such as the Asus EeePC ? The economic reality of hard choices brings with it potential shifts in technology and offers and can also ultimately change consumer behaviour itself.

It seems only a short time since we were being told that ebook readers were affordable devices and we saw laptops replace cheaper desktop furniture, everyone had expensive office software and we were all going broadband and wifi. Ok which would you sacrifice when times get hard; the all singing and dancing latest laptop, the standard but top price software, the broadband connection or the wifi? Sense would suggest that the infrastructure is more valuable that the device and in some cases commodity office applications.

However as prudence plays its hand, do we also now have to question the consumption of media itself? We have seen the disappointing migration to Blu-Ray as the consumer settled for second best. We have seen the significant rise in open source operating systems and applications. Do we now potentially see a shift in media ownership?
We have previously questioned why we need to buy and own all of our music, films, TV shows and build libraries that have to be replaced when the next technology supersedes it. We started with vinyl, then replaced it with cassettes, some with eight track, then CDs and now with digital files. Potentially how many formats of the same music have we bought? The same applied to video, with the infamous Betamax VHS wars, moving onto the DVD and now Blu-Ray. To date, the humble book hasn’t suffered the same repetitive library syndrome, perhaps because the best reader is still the physical book itself but change will happen and with ebook manufacturers and gurus all talking about the number of books that can be stored on a device on automatically sees the usual library writing on the wall.

We can envisage a shift towards cheap devices that can be permanently logged on to rent, or even get free access to commodity applications, use open source software, access content online and avoid the restrictions of DRM and costs of dedicated devices. Why not share our library with the universe, play what we want when we want it at a price we want to pay and importantly achieve all this at a lower price?
Hard times sometimes shake the tree and what follows are different attitudes and choices that were not relevant before.

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