Over the years media has been delivered in several formats: VHS, DVD, CD, Cassette tape and Records. However its now 2010, it’s time to part ways with physical media and begin a new, more free way of receiving media. This is, of course is downloading content. I’m not saying this is going to be right away but I think within 10 years we will be away from optical media as our primary form of distribution.
For music the transition has already happened, very few people buy CDs, the vast majority of people buy music from online music stores like iTunes and Amazon MP3. This let’s people buy just the songs they like and not spend $15 on a CD when they only like 1 or 2 songs. This has been a very successful transition for the most part although the music industry has been having trouble with it.
Video content has been available on-demand for some time although not many people have adopted it. You can buy TV shows and movies from iTunes and Amazon although many people still prefer to buy DVDS or Bluray disks. However, now you can watch content on-demand from Netflix and Hulu. With the help of a set-top-box, like the Roku box or Apple TV, you can watch that content on you big screen TV. Plus you can take your content with you anywhere, with mobile applications. This allows you to have access to your content anywhere you go (as long as you either have content loaded on your device or have an Internet connection to stream content). This also doesn’t require you to carry and store optical disks that you want to watch at any given time.
There are some issues with the downloadable content model. On being the ability to backup and move content. DVDs and other physical media can be played on an unlimited number of players as long as you have the media with you. However with Amazon Unbox you can only watch content on computers you authorize and log-in on. With iTunes you can authorize up to 5 computers and other devices to play your content. Neither of these options offer a backup option or in Amazon’s case a way to play content offline without installing their special software. There is also no option to sell or get money back from digital content if you no longer want it. You can rent for a short period if time but if there’s content that you no longer want there’s no way to sell it to get some money back like you could with used DVDS.
Despite these setbacks you really can’t blame this on the stores, it is mostly the content makers who want to protect themselves from piracy. But these issues need to be addressed because downloading is the next major method of delivering content. There is also people creating high quality content directly for the web with free downloads and no strings attached. This content can be major competition for the old content makers because they are making great content that is free to download and can be put on any device without issues.