Connection vs. Content
A few years ago, there existed a bus company that would take cheap college students and other risk-takers between New York and Boston for as little as $15. Some journeys would include chickens meandering around the bus, while others would end in explosions. Rumor had it, instead of stopping at a state-run rest stop, they’d make you stop at THEIR OWN rest stops so they could make a few more bucks on you.
Sound ridiculous? Well, that’s what your local cable company does to you! In the old days, your cable company provided both connection and content. They connected you to Hollywood, and determined what channels you’d be allowed to watch, and how much you’d pay for the content. Sure, it was better than nothing!
However, nowadays more and more content is becoming available on the Internet, from anyone in the world, to anyone in the world. (It’s how we discovered EpicMealTime, HomeStarRunner, and for better or worse, Justin Bieber!) It no longer makes sense to have a middleman offering packages when a whole world of content awaits you. In the future, no matter how hard they try to resist it, cable companies will only provide the connection.
If you need another analogy, consider your local water authority. Do they dictate how much of your water can be used to make coffee or Kool-Aid? Do you depend on them for water while you’re traveling? Of course not.
Don’t believe me? It’s already happening: Many young people are ditching traditional TV for an Internet-only plan. They may pay the cable company a few extra bucks for “premium content” such as the Internet-based HBO Go.
A bit of History
Twenty years ago, in 1994, Bill Gates deftly predicted the separation of connection and content. He described a previously unimaginable world where you signed up for a generic Internet connection, then enjoyed content on your own schedule from a third party’s central server. Ironically, it seems every other company on the planet is now implementing this EXCEPT HIS!
The Current Experience
We currently have huge HDTVs that are mostly restricted to watching cable TV and dvds/blu-rays. Meanwhile, content is increasingly Internet-based, such as Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime, Pandora, and other Internet TV and Radio sources. So, we’re left squinting at our small laptops, tablets, and cell phones in order to enjoy this new media.
How do we enjoy all that wonderful Internet content with our large televisions and home stereos?
Devices that distill Internet content to your television such as Roku and AppleTV (whose purchasable content comes exclusively from Apple, of course) are still somewhat primitive, but they’re gaining momentum. Unfortunately, the only Android-powered devices available (aside from some super-unrefined Chinese novelty boxes) is the Amazon FireTV. All except the novelty boxes lack a USB port to connect thumbdrives with your own videos and photos. The tech-savvy among us have connected PCs to our HDTVs, whose keyboards and mice make for a cumbersome living-room experience.
Well, Marc, what about…
Chromecast? Impossible for a senior citizen to install, and basically allows you to play an arbitrary selection of content from your smartphone. A haphazard product nobody asked for.
Smart TVs? Utter garbage. Having one means there’s a tiny computer embedded in your television… one that causes your television to crash, nag, lag, and become obsolete, just like a real computer! The only ones that will survive in the future will ditch their in-house software for mainstream platforms, such as Apple or Google.
Net Neutrality? Basically, the local cable companies want to “ruffle through your luggage” so to speak, and charge extra for video content, for no good reason. They’re going to strongarm you straight into the arms of new, neutral fiber providers.
Putting my money where my mouth is
In 2006, I toyed with the idea of making my own movie, and realized if I did, I could only release it on YouTube or Miro, and people would only be able to enjoy it on their 14” computer screens!!
At the time, there was a rudimentary AppleTV product and a Roku Internet music player. Other than that, nerds craving media connected a PC to an HDTV and called it a day.
There were also a handful of ultra-proprietary devices with ultra-proprietary service models and ultra-proprietary content, such as Akimbo. When the Akimbo service went belly-up, all Akimbo devices became immediately useless, suitable only for the recycling guy. Unfortunately, AppleTV and the others are still to at least some degree, dependent on the mothership.
So, I spent from 06 to 08 conceptualizing a product and service that would bring Internet content to the television in a user-friendly way… at that time in history, it was going to require hundreds of thousands of dollars, between patent lawyers, contract manufacturers, and programmers to produce in-house apps. After many iterations and many partners, I put the project on the back burner.
However, I look with great respect upon the turn of the last century, the age of the individual inventor. I still wanted my chance to become one of them. This would be my chance to make a difference in the way media was enjoyed.
As of 2014, I have a product on the horizon. I took a preexisting (well-made) Android box from a small manufacturer, installed a bunch of must-have apps (why remake them?), and then commissioned my own App, called Streamplicity, which runs on it (and most other Android devices)! Soon I will begin selling it for a few hundred dollars around the Rochester area. Keep an eye on streamplicity.com for release announcements.
So, what’s the future’s future?
We all know the wonders of Youtube: An amateur filmmaker uploads content which can be streamed to your device whenever you’re in the mood. Beyond that, we have MIRO, which allows users to actually download this amateur content free of restriction. Streaming Internet broadcasts in a variety of sub and sub-sub genres are available on sites like Pandora, Twitch and Machinima. Most of these services are already available on PCs and mobile devices.
The neutral Internet means there’s NO MORE NEED FOR AN EXCLUSIVE MIDDLEMAN, be it your cable company or Apple, or even Streamplicity. The future is inevitably independent artists releasing their content to multiple online distributors. There are also many more mind-bending concepts, such as creative commons media, which in short, means content released by the creator without copyright.
This future will only happen when the Internet+TV platforms are more flexible, and offer MORE content than what’s available on traditional cable. The more proprietary a platform is, the more likely it is to fall under its own weight.
After all, who wants to buy a device that only allows them to purchase content from one provider? The public deserves a neutral devices that brings them where they want. After all, your car doesn’t tell you where to eat when you’re on a road trip!
1: Anyone can create content from anywhere now. There’s a wealth of new media available on the Internet.
2: The local Internet providers are trying to charge extra money for video content, going against the inevitably neutral nature of the Internet.
3: Soon i’ll offer a product that will eventually allow you to replace your cable company!
As always, thanks for reading, and we’ll see you next time on Teknosophy.