Storage

It's strange, but as I look back on my career, I see that it has been influenced more by storage factors than processor factors. This is true going all the way back to NES games where with good compression you could double or triple the content that went into a cartrige.

Now I'm trying to imagine a world with these little microdrives (like in the iPod) in everything. And Wi-Fi connecting them all.

The word of the day will be replication. The idea will be to allow your data (and licensed music, movies, books even) to circulate in your own microdrive eco-system but not migrate to your neighbor's, unless he has a license for the content as well.

It's not immediately obvious to most people but the secret to making all of this work well is to simple make many devices write-only. That's what the iPod is supposed to be - you can store your tunes onto an iPod but you can't get them back off to give to a buddy. (On the other hand, your buddy can bring his iPod to your computer and you can give him a copy of your music. But that's a lot more work than simply having iPods talk to each other and exchange music.)

The thing about the current file sharing world is that it is so easy to share files. The system just needs a little friction so that it is easier to buy the stuff online than to transfer it without a license. And the DRM systems need less friction within a 'local ecosystem' so that once you have licensed some music or a movie or a book, you can listen, look at it, or read it, on any device you want.

I bought the Firefly DVDs because everyone told me to watch them before watching Serenity, the movie spin-off from the short-lived TV series. So I did. $30 from Amazon - pretty good! Now i have this 4 CD set... and quite frankly, I'm happy to loan it to anyone that comes along. I'm not going to be watching it over and over again. Is that illegal? (I hope not!) You can imagine a situation where four families get together and make a DVD club, where they get a DVD and share it. They would have some rule where the family that gets the DVD first rotates in a list. That would save them 75% on DVD costs, but also cut the sales of DVDs 75%, which would be painful for the movie companies. Really popular DVDs would transcend this rule, of course, because each family would want to own their own 'Finding Nemo', as some titles do bear watching over and over and over again by the kids.

And I bought, for $1.99, the first episode of Nightstalker from the iTunes store. I finally watched it and meh. But what I am supposed to do with this big file that I never want to watch again? Delete it, I supposed, but the iTunes store only allows ONE download of a video file. If you want to watch on multiple computers you have to copy it around to different machines yourself. I guess this is to save on bandwidth costs for the iTunes store. But that's kind of lame.

*Sigh*. Digital licensing is complicated.

© 2005 Stephen Clarke-Willson - All Rights Reserved.