Monday, January 16, 2006

Shorts and Longs (Digital Livingroom)

At last month's Digital Livingroom conference in San Mateo, my co-panelists (Tim Bajarin, Julie Ask, and Mike Langberg) and I were charged with outlining a "roadmap for the future" of the digital livingroom. I shared my views on these six ideas (three longs, three shorts) and asked the audience for its opinion on each. For what it's worth, they tended to disagree with me, but here are the calls I made.
  1. Every consumer electronics device (tvs, clock radios, etc) will be connected to the Internet.

    I'm LONG this idea. This is a great opportunity for hardware companies to get into the recurring revenue stream by selling services and content for their own devices or by charging a gatekeeper fee to others. They will need help with the software to make it all work as they've never had decent software capabilities, and of course Microsoft will try to dominate all these devices. Regardless, we will see networked CE products everywhere.

  2. Consumers will continue to pay $100/month bundled cable/content bills.

    I'm SHORT this one. First it will be just fringe content providers, but eventually even ESPN will want direct-to-consumer relationships. With a networked television, you will be able to sign up for a single content provider directly over the Internet. The cable company will provide a pipe and will still offer content bundles, but no one will be paying $100 per month for a boatload of channels they never watch.
  3. Mommy and grandma will soon be fighting with the teenage kids for Xbox time.

    LONG. It's going to be a different genre of games -- think Mahjong and Tetris. But with the Internet-connect consoles, new online communities will emerge. Business Week already wrote a story on the Gaming Grannies.
  4. We'll all be browsing the web in the kitchen.

    LONG but not in the usual sense. We won't be using a browser on a PC or terminal screen. We'll be looking at dedicated devices designed to communicate specific information. Maybe it's a refrigerator with a handle that changes color when it needs to be re-stocked. Or perhaps we'll have a coffee maker with a small embedded weather forecast display. I doubt all these devices will be using Ambient Devices' network, but I do think Ambient has the right design ideas.

  5. We'll consume our living room content "on the go" (a la Sling Devices).

  6. SHORT. We will consume content on the go, but it will be made for our small form factor portable devices. It will be short clips (3 minutes, not 30). Simple "copy and transmit" devices like Sling may be used to watch a PVR-recorded show in the office, but they won't cut it for mobile devices, on which we will watch purpose-built content.

  7. With all this precious content (digital photos, purchased digital music and movies) on our PCs, a backup server in the home like Mirra will become a must-have.

    SHORT. There is little doubt that backups will become critical as the cost of the content on our hard disks starts to dwarf the cost of the hard disk itself. However, copying content onto another hard disk in the house is not the best solution. Some version of the networked backup services that first emerged in the late 90s (remember the likes of X-Drive?) will return with their sharing and remote access features.


Jon said...

Hey Jeremy, on #5, I think there's a lot of stuff that still has to be worked out there, both technically and operationally, but I really believe there's a huge opportunity in living room media on the go.

Not necessarily watching it on the go, but at least being *able* to watch it on the go, and much more importantly, purchase it on the go for viewing later on other platforms.

I just wrote some things on my own blog about this... (shameless, I know)... would be interested to hear others thoughts.

TechTrader said...

I have to take exception to #6. I think this is a great long idea. I think there is substantial content that people are realizing that they want to keep around on a separate storage device. Especially as consumers get more comfortable with the idea of getting a new PC every four years or so, they'll start to realize that having a backup/media storage device is a good idea.
Now is it a high-margin business? Meh... probably not. Big disk drives with 802.11 antennas aren't the pinnacle of proprietary technology. But keeping the files separately from the CPU, that might have legs...
Just a thought.

Dylan Salisbury said...

About your #6 comment: "However, copying content onto another hard disk in the house is not the best solution."

Hang on, doesn't this accomplish 95% of what a home user needs, 95% of the time? Even better if the hard drive has much more capacity than you really need (so you can make multiple copies of everything), and better yet if the drive is portable.

What I'm saying is, there's not enough of a market for any kind of home backup product because the storage industry is already producing general storage products that are cheap and good enough to use for home backups, no extra software required.

Laura said...

I'm sorry, I'm going to have to agree with Jeremy on #6. Really, who backs up the stuff on their computers? It's one of those things that you know you should do, but you can always do it tomorrow. I think that there is huge opportunity for backups to become a service, and what better way to provide that service than via the internet?

Shelly said...

Have to agree with Laura re using the web to backup. With coming(?) ultra hi-speed uploading, why do I want to store data on MY storage medium other than the operating programs themeselves? And even those backed up offline. Back in the early 80's I remember having what was called a "terminal" in the office on Wall Street wherein the actual accounting programs and data were stored somewhere in New Jersey. Worked great, and in black and white!

Saying that, IMHO it will be the ultra hi-speed WIRELESS downloading of content that will be a killer ap, e.g., movies onto my flash card for my video iPod-like device. If fast enough and available everywhere, don't need much storage space . . . will just download as desired after viewing an online menu of offerings.

Anonymous said...

Coming ultra-highspeed internet access? Not anyone's home I know. Okay, I lie, techies, VCs and bears (oh my!) all have high-speed access (T-1), but that's it. Everyone else is using SBC Yahoo!, Comcast or RoadRunner. And it will stay that way for next 5-7 years. Long enough to mine some economics. Additionally, physical possession of data, pics, videos, files will make people happy. Having your files stored somewhere out there on a company's network that can be hacked or subject to a financial downturn scares some people.
Additionally, I think people will begin to realize that should backup and actually will start to do it. Especially if you can buy an appliance that does it automatically on a schedule. Again, if Jeremy wants to argue the margin problem -- I'd be sympathetic to that view. I think volumes, however, will grow.
Just my contrarian take...and hey, that's what makes a market!

Jeremy said...

Dylan -- I agree that a USB hard drive solves a part of the consumer backup problem, but not all of it. Even with a second drive at home, you still need software to ensure your data is constantly being copied onto the second drive. Furthermore, you're vulnerable to a house fire or an electric surge that may wipe out all the drives in your house.

Anonymous -- I don't think you need ultra-high speed broadband to make good use of networked backup. I'd argue we will all keep a single copy of our data locally (but not TWO copies). The second copy will be stored in the cloud. Today's standard DSL/cable broadband connection is plenty fast to keep a mirrored copy of my data somewhere in the network.

TechTrader said...

Okay, mea culpa. While I don't think people are really worried about house fires, I am going to introduce evidence that I may indicate that I am wrong about data speed connections.
See Om's latest on the market share of higher speed DSL connections:
Hmm...if people do migrate towards "better-than-SBCYahoo!-speeds", then speed may not be the issue. But, I still think that people have a fundamental need to have a local physical copy and also view their latest laptop/PC as too transient to keep it. If they have a USB or 802. device that manages all media and files with auto backup parameters built in - I think more will do it. But now that I've seen fresh evidence regarding the adoption of higher speed connections, I'm no longer as bullish on my position.
Jeremy, you've convinced me.

Anonymous said...

When you have a lot of data that changes frequently, it may be easier to have two USB disks as the backup media. One disk can be the active backup disk while the other stored elsewhere, then they can be rotated weekly or so.

A backup software such as Relative Rev Backup will convert a plain USB disks into a managed archive of backup versions going hours and even years back. So you have plenty of time to notice that one of your files/folders has gone bad before its backup is recycled.

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