Imx Fix in my experience
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September 2, 2003 9:47 AM

In what seems like a desperate attempt to get some press, Forrester has declared that "The end of physical media is nearing." When I read statements like that, I think back to the wired Magazine cover from several years ago that declared that the further is 'Push' technologies. Both statements, were and are utter crap.

I have always understood generational transitions of media technology will (hopefully) achieve the two following goals; increase data density and increase quality (the former usually supports the latter)...

  • Cassettes did indeed increase density by making music more portable, but the quality wasn't that much of a leap forward, if it was a forward movement at all (I'd argue it wasn't).
  • Compact disks achieved both goals, with the added benefit of perfect reproduction at each iteration. 74 minutes of portable music, with no tape hiss and no degradation of the signal after each play. Sweet.
  • DVD's offer us even more data density allowing us to enjoy everything a CD can offer, but with even higher quality and more quantity of material, such as full length movies (with multiple audio tracks for the international crowd).
Streaming data does NOT offer us any advances in quality, but doesn't help out with data density. Streaming is a transient experience, with no ownership after the fact. For many of us, the delivery mechanism for this streaming media is transient, which means that external forces may interrupt the experience as it is happening. When that becomes a cognizant fact, the experience degrades.

Downloading MP3's and dumping them onto CD-R's or iPods is a good way to cram tons of media into a very small physical space. But Forrester is talking about streaming and downloading. The streaming part will indeed make money, but it isn't going to kill physical media. My car doesn't stream.

Downloading will likely enforce and expand the physical media market by forcing consumers to offload their music and movie files to CD-Rs and DVD-Rs so their hard drives don't get packed full. Also, hard drives in computers aren't very portable, and in a way, represent lower data density (due the fact that large box with data in it essentially lowers the density of the data load within it).

If we think forward for a minute, we might see the following occur. The convenience of media downloads offsets the lower levels of quality, and people buy the content. I'm not sure that convenience does indeed trump quality, but let's pretend it does. People download lots of music and movies, and quickly realize that the downloaded movies don't look so great on their computer monitors. So they try to move it to their TV, and realize that their 34 inch Sony Vega's makes it look even worse, and they go back to buying DVD's like "A Bug's Life" which is a pure 100% digital transfer, and is utterly gorgeous in progressive scan.

Do you get my point? Downloading has its place, but so does portable, static, high quality, extremely dense, media formats.

[Note: I was at the beach last week. It was great.]