Monday, November 22, 2010

The TV/Internet merger: I'm not buying it just yet.

Oh, it's coming alright. In fact, it was evident years ago that at some point, everything you watch on television will be delivered through the Internet. You can already watch TV on your computer and even buy a new Internet capable TV that will let you stream movies from Netflix, watch shows from Hulo, catch YouTube videos and lots more. If you don't want to buy the new TV, you can still enable streaming Internet content with most new Blue Ray players, Tivo boxes and gaming consoles.

So why am I not taking the plunge you ask? Because it's too early to get in efficiently. A bit more than ten years ago, personal computers were in a similar evolutionary phase. I'd buy a new computer with 10 times the capability of the one I bought the year before, and the following year, I'd need a new one. The product wasn't just marginally improved year over year. It was a whole new machine, with new software and new capabilities. My competitors had it, so I had to have it. Eventually things progressed to where even a tenfold increase in download speed isn't a "must have". I can wait the extra 4 milliseconds and so I can actually keep a computer for a few years instead of a few months.

Now the entertainment media industry is in upheaval. The gatekeepers are about to lose control as more and more delivery methods and creative business models and alliances are coming to market. But the situation is fluid. Who knows who is going to dominate the marketplace, if anyone. It's tough to project which business model is going to win out. Do you want to have 11 months left in a paid subscription contract when the same thing or better becomes available for free? There is no compelling reason to make a move right now. There's nothing in the new media that I can't do without indefinitely. I fully expect that in the coming years I'll be able to surf the entire web, watch whatever show or movie I want, whenever I want, wherever I want, in high definition imagery and sound, for less than $100/month. But I can wait. I don't need another collection of outdated equipment. I finally got rid of my Zip drive, my Jazz drive, all my floppy disks, the old computers that I was saving "just in case" and the myriad of cords and connectors that went with it all. I'm not going to start a new pile. I can wait until they get it right.

Naturally some folks want the latest and greatest right now. There's nothing wrong with that either. In fact, if a lot of people didn't pay $1300 or more for their flat screen LCD HDTV's a few years back, they wouldn't be available for $300 now. Somebody's got to pay for all that research and development. So go nuts this Christmas. Take advantage of the deep discounts and get yourself some new tech toys. I'm going to wait for the next round, or maybe the one after that. In the meantime, real life is still available free of charge, without a subscription, and it's actually a lot less crowded outside these days.

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