I gave a lecture yesterday about digital communications and IP, and a student from class has pointed out this BusinessWeek article as something to consider: A Wireless iPod Can Torpedo the Pirates [pdf]
Riddle me this: What would you get if you crossed a BlackBerry with an iPod? The answer: The future of the music business. Let me explain. Imagine, if you will, an iPod as a wireless digital ladle. It would dip into a nearly bottomless stream of continual music, scooping up any song you wanted, when you wanted, where you wanted. There would be no need for CDs, hard drives, or any other storage device. And trying to capture such music would be about as easy as trapping mist in a jar. Every song would contain a digital expiration date, so, over time, they would evaporate.
[...] Fanciful? Not at all. After all, this isn’t my brainchild, it’s a concept called Everywhere Internet Audio (EIA) that has been kicking around university think tanks and newsgroups.
Hmm, an interesting idea, albeit one that has almost zero market value to me — of course, I’m not the person the technology is aimed at, either. On the other hand, any strategy that takes away the physical storage medium for expression and puts it entirely into the "celestial jukebox" presupposes a degree of reliability and persistence that I simply do not associate with internet (or, for that matter, computer) storage of anything — witness how hard it is to find information you accessed on the Internet two years ago.
And I don’t see the value proposition. The plus to the industry is the defeat of casual piracy at the expense of new infrastructure and consumer hardware, not to mention having to ensure that the entire catalog of music will actually be available. And the consumer value proposition is even harder to see.
To someone like me, this device is just a fancy radio — I am still a believer in persistent packages for my music. To a consumer whose entire collection is in MP3 form, the technology is only attractive if s/he can get her/his MP3s into the machine. And there’s a noxious little hole. Unless the device will only accept files with expiration dates, the piracy merits go away. BUT, giving the consumer the instruments to turn their MP3s into this new format means that the algorithm will be exposed, so that an expiration date of infinity will be hacked in — and we’re back to square one.
There was a NYTimes article on this on Sept 15 - here’s my entry: A new name for the celestial jukebox (I see I’ve been remiss on putting the PDF links in, so I’ll get on it!)