Friday, September 2

The future of media - the next big step is portability

I've seen the future of portable media. It's direct to portable video player subscription content. Always on, always with you, always updated with the latest content, anytime and anywhere ubiquitous media anyone can produce it. Even your grandmother. We're getting there, but video blogging needs to flash over into the hardware market.


Eric Rice posts this picture of the Sony PSP loaded up edge to edge with thumbnails of videos theoretically just a click away. It's not really there, but it is a vision of what could be.

Now, some points.

a) the PSP needs more memory, I know it can hold like a gig of videos, but that's not enough. I'm not sure if it supports 4gig flash cards or anything larger yet, I don't own one, but we need a device exactly like the PSP with at least 20 gigs of HD if not 60 or more gigs. 20 is a nice start though. I should point out the controls and the screen shape and size on this device are perfect for video media. The only issues then are memory and software.

b) The implied interface here is that you could click on any thumbnail and instantly play the video. In actuality these thumbnails just link to the blog post, which would then need to be navigated in order to get to the video. It's to much work. Playback needs to be immediate. Obviously this thumbnail interface is easily navigable with the thumb-pad. The controls are perfect, the information architecture or click architecture needs work. This shouldn't be a problem for Peter who created this interface for his being as he's an information architect. Peter, it's time to go beyond Flickr. Photos can't do what videos can do, they can't go where videos can go. You need new metaphors and ideas.

c) meta information -- while the thumbnail interface is very pretty it would be really, really nice to be able to hit one of the keys on the right, say the triangle button to instantly display all the textual meta information from the blog post on the selected video. Not only while browsing in this, the thumbnail state, but also while watching the individual video. The meta info should always be a single click away.

d) Caching - I assume information is loaded right off the website using the PSP's built in wifi. It's live updating, which is awesome, because new videos coming into (in this case) Eric Rice's subscriptions will appear automatically, however their needs to be a recursive cache mechanism, because a) you're obviously not going to be always online when you are using the PSP and b) it's highly unlikely you would be able to stream videos in realtime in the majority of cases. It would be EXTREMELY nice if the PSP could automatically detect and jump on any open network and start updating with the latest content without any interaction with the owner. I'm not sure thought if the PSP does auto-connect to wifi networks, and furthermore this would require some additional PSP based software and I know nothing about developing to the PSP platform. It's quite likely that Sony has everyone locked out, but it's also quite likely there's already a linux hack in development.

So what are we talking about here? How close are we to this future of ubiquitous portable media?

Well, here's my little brainstorm on what it would take. This is just one possible scenario using the PSP as a basis for departure.

a) First off I know nothing about developing applications for the PSP, but the most obvious thing at the bare minimum there's going to have to be some sort of software to download and cache videos. This is the hardest part

b) Secondly, does have all the mechanisms in place to interface with such software. If not for the caching issue mefeedia could easily configure a specialized script that takes all video in a users subscriptions, compile this interface and make sure the videos are only a click away. I'm sure that's easily within Peter's capability, and hopefully he'll work with Eric and give this a shot. Who knows, perhaps the PSP will stream videos well without even caching them. One thing is for sure if they even get this primitively working they should schedule a date with Sony and demo the technology. The prospects of such a device as this could radically change the way we interact with media. The proposal is a future where theoretically anyone can produce and syndicate media to be watched anytime or anywhere. Imagine your pocket TV, but instead of 4 fuzzy channels there's an infinite amount.

b2) Configurations and settings - Oh, obviously would contain all the settings for the services.. caching, subscriptions, user preferences and all that jazz.

c) the format and codec wars - I'm not sure what exactly the PSP will play but I assume there are some issues with what type of videos it will playback. There's proprietary Win media player format, Quicktime format, Real Media and more open formats like mpeg. I don't know what the PSP will play, but the easiest thing to do would be for Mefeedia to have a user setting for choosing the preferred format and than do video conversion to deliver videos to the PSP in the preferred format.

d) button and other interface niceties. -- In order to get the interface working as smoothly as possible there would need to be some control over the button functions. I'm sure sure the PSP has by default full controls over video playback but a single click "info" button read meta info, a "delete" button, and a "bookmark" or "flag" button would be infinitely useful. There might be some others, but the right side interface keypad would be perfect for this, assuming it's programable.

Important note: You will notice this solution completely bypasses the computer as a base unit or hub, something that's obviously a large part of Apple's "digital hub" strategy. It's time to move beyond the "hub" strategy and go direct to device. This will change customers perceptions of new media entirely. Media will be liberated from the computer. That's "outside the box" thinking. Quite literally. :)

Well, I guess that just about sums up all the points I can think off off hand to make this future a reality.

Essentially it consists of either a PSP or PSP like device with tight integration with a web-services like or for handling subscriptions or content. There are in fact a whole host of services ready to enter this space including, Brightcove, Eric Rice's and even Ourmedia who's aim is making sure everyone has access to new media. Let me know if I left anyone out. I'm sure I have.

All we're asking these providers to do is shift their focus from deliverance to the computer to portable playback devices.

Motivations? Here's one... Whomever puts together this marketplace has the best chance for monetizing new media. Will people pay to subscribe to video based content on their computer, possibly. But if you're meefedia, odeo, Apple, or any of the others.. I would be betting ALL my money that people would pay for a la carte subscriptions delivered direct to a PSP like device. Because let's not forget, once it's on a portable video player, it's not only anytime and anywhere ubiquitous media, but it's also quite possible to plug such a device into any TV with a simple AV cable and watch it on the big screen.

I've seen the future and it is ubiquitous subscription based media viewable anytime and anywhere through portable handheld devices loosely coupled with web-services. That's the future, that's where the money will be. Whomever gets there first will own the future of media. Now I'm just a know nothing media haxor, but I'll bet in 5 to 10 years this will almost certainly gobble up most of the video rental market and a tremendous amount of the broadcast TV and satellite delivered media market. We're talking billions of dollars. The opportunities are amazing. So... let the race to build the platform begin.

Oh and if anyone has a job for a screwy media haxor punk with some vision, some usability and design skills please put me to work, I want to be a part of this.

P.S. Let's not forget about Apple, I didn't mention them much but with the spectacular iTunes / iPod combination they could easily leverage into what I'm talking about here, though they'd almost certainly port it all through iTunes and their desktop to cell more computers. The computer though need not be the central part of the equation. Direct to device will ultimately cripple such an Apple plan, especially when all you need is a $150 portable device to go with whatever cheap computer you already have. That definitely beats even a "$500" Mac Mini + video iPod, especially when we know the cost of the Mac mini is much higher.

So while I think Apple would seem to have the best shot, I really hope some of my favorite players who are much more customer driven and customer savvy down in the trenches like Mefeedia, FireANT, Brightcove, Odeo and the like will find a way to either OEM or more likely partner with hardware players like Creative who's been a leader in the portable hardware market and very good about supporting open platforms.

Oh, let's not forget about the content providers. I, Mobuzz TV and whatever content creators are in a position to monetize video blogging, or let's just say the video over IP subscription model. The chance of monetizing (getting people to pay) for your subscription based content for computer delivery is highly unlikely in the foreseeable future until a marketplace develops. There is NONE right now. The same with set top boxes. The Akimbo is cool, but people already have Tivo, satellite and cable. You need to as my Art & Tech professor used to say, "get it out of the box".

We don't need more content on the computer or on the TV. We need something new. New content requires a new platform and a new marketplace. You're quickest road to monetization is to partner up with those mentioned here, those in a position to develop this portable video player marketplace and leapfrog all the existing media platforms. Portable anytime / anywhere.. is the one place that none of the huge traditional media players can go do to their own dinosaur like practices. It's in this new marketplace that you, video bloggers and all new content creators have a chance to make it in new media. Quit playing their game, play your own game. Get out of the box. Never before was the term "think outside of the box" more appropriate.

There we have it.. We need partnerships between new content providers, new video based web-services providers, and hardware creators. We need partnerships and we need them now. Let's see some hats thrown in the ring. Right now whomever takes the initiative will determine how open and how customer oriented this platform is. And I'd hate to see the future be some Microsoft DRM (digital rights managements) delivered American Idol to some proprietary hand held devices. Lets see the customers drive the innovation.

In fact I've been sitting on a proposal for many months to create a customer driven initiative (hear yahoo group) to focus on realizing this portable hardware based vision of the future of media. Perhaps the time is now for consumers to unite and lead by lobbying the industry for a portable media platform. Let's taking video blogging and decentralized media into the future, a place where the traditional media empire can't follow.

Anyone listening? (Big goofy grin. :)

Now watch this trippy Honda commercial by Wieden & Kennedy with voice over by Garrison Keillor of Lake Wobegon fame. It was voted commercial of the year recently by the British Television Advertising Awards. Know that advertising is not always evil. There is hope for it yet.

Watch it:


Anonymous said...

hehehehe...that's was cool!

Michael Meiser said...

Thanks Villagegirl. I love mixing my media... The light and funny videos with the long rambling theory. They make surreal befellows sometimes.

Hate, Love, Hate, Love Change.

Christopher John said...

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