Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Digital Distribution

an editorial by Dom Acala.

Digital distribution is becoming more and more prevalent as the internet continues to grow. We have Amazon providing streamed movie rentals through their device, Unbox. Netflix recently started to offer streaming movies online and now iTunes added movie rentals to their program. More and more forms of media are turning to the digital world. iTunes is a perfect example of this distribution. You can buy songs and whole CDs and download them to your computer. Then came TV shows. Now movie rentals. More and more companies are turning to digital distribution. Xbox has Xbox Live Marketplace (XBLM). You rent movies and buy TV shows. has a music store. Books and newspapers are turnings digital with Amazon's e-reader, the Kindle, and other various e-readers. Even video games are turning digital, with XBLM, Nintendo's WiiConnect,the Playstation Network and also Gametap.

Many people seem to embrace this age of digital distribution. I don't. I like to go to the store and buy my DVDs, CDs, and video games, go home and pop it in to my media device and watch, play or listen. I like to have a physical object to hold and keep. You can have your friends borrow it. With digital media, it is very difficult to do this. Lets say you bought a game off XBLM and it's amazing and you want your friend to play it. Your friend won't be able to play it because you downloaded it to your Xbox and because of DRM, it will only work on your Xbox. If you had a hard copy of the game, you could just let your friend borrow it so he could experience the amazing game. That is, if you have friends and like the share.

DRM, in short, is something that is encoded with the data in order to prevent piracy. Take iTunes for instance: if you purchase and download a TV show, it can only work on the purchasers iTunes, play on someone else's iTunes (with permission from the purchaser), or play on any Apple product belonging to the purchaser. There are ways around this with video converters and other programs but it can become complicated to someone who doesn't know computers. Now HD movies off iTunes can only be played through the AppleTV. Amazon's video rentals and some e-reader downloads only work with Amazon products and Xbox with Xbox's whom purchased the data.

Our current infrastructure is quite weak to sustain the bandwidth needed to support a total digital distribution of media. If you are unaware, broadband providers are now considering network filters to combat piracy. Some have caps on how much you can download a month. Comcast has a secret limit on their cap, if you go over, your internet will be shut off for an indefinite amount of time. Time Warner is in the works to provide broadband where you have different plans based on how much you can download a month ( i.e. 5GB, 10GB, 20GB, etc.) and you pay for each GB you go over. Broadband providers are going this route because they are too cheap to upgrade their current cable infrastructure to provide faster internet and more bandwidth. As of now, all the illegal downloading is putting tons of stress and slowing down their networks. Verizon has recently started to provide broadband through their newly developed fiber optic network. It's supposedly really faster but it depends on your location since it's a fairly new network. Other countries like Japan have blazing fast internet at the fraction of the cost we pay here. What's up with that?

I'm old fashion with my media and want to have a physical copy of my movies and video games. I want to be able to use them whenever and wherever I please. I won't mind downloading (legally) a movie once in a while, but the time it takes to download it just turns me off. Who knows, maybe 10 or 15 years from now, every form of media will be digital and stored on the internet. Our kids will wonder why our HDTVs sucks compared to their UltraHDTVs*. And I will still be holding on to my DVDs and video games while everyone else has a hard drive as their movie collection.

* These TVs are actually real. They have 16 times more pixels than HDTVs and Japan is planning on setting them as a standard, in Japan, by 2010 or 2011. Why is Japan so much cooler than us?


Mark The Mongolian said...

Personally the only reason I like hard copies of albums is for the sleeve art. A single picture for the cover art on most internet distributors doesn't do it for me.

AB said...

i agree

that, and if you're looking for specific production credits or lyrics then it would also be in there (most of the time)