Yesterday and Today

I was talking with Mike Arrington last night, and he asked me if I had any ideas for today’s column. We batted around several topics — GroupOff being the most interesting as it shows a significant signal of Google weakness. But as I struggled this morning to meet my 10AM deadline (note: I’m writing these words at 1:18PM) this week’s Gillmor Gang went live on TechCrunchTV. Well, all except my iPad.

When the show is published to the Ooyala Backlot software, a number of different versions are rendered. The show works on the Web, works on the iPhone, plays the TechCrunch logo bumper and an ad, then goes black. Now, I’m sure that the engineers will shortly fix this, and if they don’t you can go to the YouTube version which works just fine. But my larger, or simpler point is that not supporting the iPad as the base case in today’s environment is ludicrous. I blame the content cartel, Comcast, the FCC, Barnes & Noble, Adobe, and anybody else who is attempting to derail the overturning of the traditional media channels.

The content cartel is really on our side, believe it or not. Mostly because they tremble in fear of being RecordBiz 2.0. They know full well the iPad is their friend, because once NetFlix trains us that there is no window long enough to protect Hollywood from today’s shows being compared to last year’s releases, the jig is up. It’s Microsoft’s problem with Windows and Office updates: they’re competing with themselves, and the only reason we buy the next one is because it comes preloaded on a new machine. That’s why the Beatles own the Top 50 on iTunes. The Beatles play on my iPad.

Comcast doesn’t care about the iPad but that’s because they are acquiring NBC which is paid by Microsoft to not care. They released an iPad app that lets me control my DVRs but doesn’t let me watch them. I can get NBC shows on my iPad by renting them from iTunes, so I don’t blame NBC, just Comcast. The FCC is toothless, Barnes & Noble gives me no reason whatsoever to leave them even a pity tip as I go to the Kindle and iBooks stores to download iPad product, and Adobe…. Ooyala will fix the problem, but Adobe is the problem.

As the guy said in the old movie, what we have here is a failure to communicate. What part of yes fails to penetrate the minds of those who see video as the next bubble? Yes, we want video, we want it streamed, we want access to it even if we never stream it because then we can delete it off of our iTunes server to free up enough OS space to upgrade to the next version of the infrastructure. The Chicken Littles announcing that this streaming thing is gonna use up all the Cloud’s free space have always and continue to be wrong.

OK, well, then we’re gonna have to charge you. Fine. What part of how much do you not get? 3 or 400 for Google TV, no thanks. A hundred for Apple TV, sure. Now that I’ve been able to AirPlay into my bedroom, I’ll buy another one for my new stereo home entertainment system in the living room and even buy the new Hendrix box set on iTunes while I’m standing on line in Starbucks. Comes with interactive liner notes so I don’t mind saving the money for the analog box set that I can’t buy anywhere.

Apple TV shows us we will save up enough money from opting out of clueless suppliers and spend it on what this streaming architecture will cost. I am diverting my acquisition of DVR-constrained TV shows to rental and preferably streaming of socially filtered results. I am moving to iTunes from CDs and BlueRay, to Bluetooth content streaming from radio, to the networks that speak iPad as well as all the rest. Just look at the ABC app; fully one third of the shows my family and I watch (All My Children, The View, Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, you get the idea) and all the arguments about saving them on the living room screen are gone. The kids got iPads from the grandparents for the holidays, and now I can blast Hendrix and Neil Young and Dylan outtakes guilt free.

When this sooner than later adds up to real money, the other networks will ante up. Android and Chrome will help, but people will be in those markets as a way of competing with iOS product, not instead of. Comcast will still be useful just because of the economics of that cable coming into the home. But if they keep the iPad at arms length they will provide competitors with an on-ramp to their customers. It’s not so much cable-cutting that is the threat; it’s winnowing the valuable product down via social clouds to the point where the accumulated revenue makes it viable to justify the investment in iOS UI and the supposed wrath of the cartel.

It’s 3:19 now and still no Gang joy on the iPad. But I can tell you that when John Biggs asks whether it’s going to go all streaming, there’s no part of yes to misunderstand. Every time a hard drive crashes, a little bit of us dies. Pictures, stolen moments, the soundtrack of our lives. Facebook thrives because we trust the Cloud, not the company. Gmail we trust because without redundancy they have no product. NetFlix we trust because we know we’re not missing much no matter how long Comcast lengthens the window.

It’s not clear how NetFlix/Level 3 will fare against the studios’ fear of being Appled, but then again the failure of the GroupOn deal suggests we’re seeing a negotiation not a war. The Google strategy appears to be about acquiring the GroupOn salesforce as a way of staffing its +1 social product. Absorb the new social advertising model, they figure. The studios, afraid of iTunes, may realize it’s better to absorb the NetFlix streaming model with variable pricing just like the Beatles waited for $1.29 and the holiday selling season to jump. After years of embargoed Beatles recordings in the media, those Apple Beatle ads look and sound fresh and alive. Yesterday suddenly doesn’t seem so far away.

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