Internet as Product

I find it interesting how many people think of the internet as a product. For many, the internet is simply the World Wide Web and the sites that are found on it. This is why, for example, people spend so much time worrying about the battle of internet video vs TV, and why Wal-Mart’s video download service is declared a failure because DVDs are easier. Well, I find it hard to imagine a future in which TVs cannot access the internet and DVDs are the dominant form of video distribution. Maybe that future isn’t real close, but it’s there. It seems silly to mock early (if not pioneering) efforts at new forms of content distribution simply because those efforts are not yet ready to dominate.

The internet is a distribution and communication channel that is often confused with the device that currently dominates human interaction with that channel – the PC. Remember how silly the idea of an internet accessible oven seemed? That’s because we thought of the internet as a product. It didn’t seem like there would be a large market for people who want to read internet recipes on their oven. Well, there isn’t, but if we think of the internet as a communication channel, we begin to think that there might be a larger market for people who want to control and monitor their ovens remotely. If we think of the internet as Web sites, we have trouble moving beyond the PC. If we think of it as a channel, all sorts of opportunities open up.

One day, our TVs will connect seamlessly to the internet. Because the TV can’t do it today, if you’re a hardware company that seems to be a pretty profitable area to work on. If, on the other hand, you’re a video or movie producer, it sure seems like you should be preparing for that converged future while spending as little time as possible on today’s methods of distribution. Make sure you have a plan for the day when viewers aren’t bound to network schedules and have a broad choice of content distributors. Beyond TVs and PCs, though, are many other devices that can benefit from connecting to the internet. Mobile phones are an obvious one (since that process is well underway), as are cars.

In reality, if such connectivity were cheap enough, just about anything could benefit. Sensors on your furnace relay performance information to the manufacturer’s diagnostic application which returns the results to you. Your dog’s gps collar tracks him for you when he runs away. The list is endless but the point is that the internet (or whatever it evolves into), as a channel, will become ubiquitous. This means that information will become ubiquitous as well. It will always be at our fingertips. Content producers need to understand that and then make some judgements about how long that future will take and what intermediate steps will be needed to reach it.

internetumbrella.jpgwe make money not art has an interesting interview with Takashi Matsumoto who is a Ph.D. student of Keio University, Media Design Program and belongs to Okude Lab. Okude Lab is working on a research project called “Ubiquitous Content.” One of Matsumoto’s projects is Pileus: The Internet Umbrella. “This is an internet browser of an umbrella to entertain people in a rain.” Yeah, I’d say the internet on an umbrella is making it ubiquitous. If you look at pictures of this device, it looks unwieldy, unsaleable, and in many ways just silly. If I were a Wal-Mart movie download critic I’d call it a failure. If I were someone else I’d think of it as interesting and wonder where it might lead.

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