Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Ownership of music, movies and software slipping away
Consider the music business. For decades, physical ownership of music ruled, first with LPs and cassettes and then CDs. Then Apple changed the game when it launched the iTunes download store in April 2003.
Fast forward to today and iTunes sales are dropping as consumers switch to ad-supported and subscription streaming music services like Pandora and Spotify.
Why own the music when streaming is so convenient? You can access your favorite music from multiple devices without the hassle of finding your copy.
In the movie business, DVD sales are down as more consumers sign up for Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video and other subscription streaming services.
Once again, with streaming, people don’t have to load their personal copy of a video into a consumer electronics device. They just search from a menu and hit play.
Another benefit of streaming video vs. DVD is not having to slog through all those trailers, ads, piracy warnings and menus you get before you can actually watch the video you want. With streaming, it starts when you hit play.
However, a drawback is the likely disappearance of special features like deleted scenes, movie documentaries and director commentaries.
Computer software also is shifting from buy-and-own to monthly subscriptions. Microsoft, Adobe Systems and other software companies now offer to rent PC software applications as opposed to buy-upfront licensed software. This is part of the shift to cloud computing.
Amazon.com even has a subscription electronic book service called Kindle Unlimited.
It all sounds like a good deal, but consumers might end up paying more for software and entertainment content this way.
Also, if you don’t own something, you have less control over it. Some of the content you like could just disappear when a service loses the rights to it.
Plus, you usually need an Internet connection to access your content.
As with all new things, there are tradeoffs.