Can Netbooks and Media Save Each Other?

Here’s an interesting editorial from Ad Age.  The author, Simon Dumenco postulates that free or very cheap netbooks can save the media industry through a subscription based content model.  Hahaha!!! This is nothing new.  I remember when the first round of “Internet Appliances” tried to come out in the late 90’s early 2000’s.  There was talk that a portion of the screen would be filled with ads to pay for the cost of the hardware and the software.  That idea died quickly.  Fast forward to now … so I’m gonna get a free netbook so I can pay$xx.99/mo. for each cloud application I want to access?   Oh, and by the way, some portion of the screen will be filled with advertisements to pay for the cost of the hardware and the software.   And, wow, isn’t it great to watch Hulu on an 8-in screen — how about a 8-in portable DVD player and a Blockbuster card?

Now some words about “Netbooks.”  When I initially heard about these devices, I thought the idea was ridiculous.  Being the type of person I am, this meant I had to get one to see if I could make sense of the hype.  My parents gifted me an HP Mini 1000 for Christmas and I really like it.  It’s a great little computer for the kitchen to look up recipes, read e-mail, and do little online shopping tasks when it’s inconvenient to go up to the office and fire up my PC or “real laptop.”  I, also, use it to read manga online while in bed and it’s much easier and less worrisome to bring this little guy on trips rather than a bulky laptop, when all we want to do is e-mail and check the news while out.  I think what makes this netbook and ones like it successful is that it is not as underpowered as I expected.  My netbook has comparable technical specs to my 3-yr “real laptop” so I can watch downloaded anime in the high-def file formats and I can have a “Rich Internet Experience.”  Granted, though, it’s nothing like my gaming PC or my smokin’ media laptop.  All-in-all, I’d have to say most netbooks are nice little products suitable for people on the go, children, and people looking for a secondary PC or laptop.

And some thoughts on media:  I still go to the movies because I like to watch good movies on a big screen with a crowd.  I feel watching a good movie is a good use of $11 and 2-1/2 hours of a weekend — the key words being “good movies.”  Good or better products and good or better experiences built around these products will always attract a crowd.  I think media outlets should concentrate on the content and make delivery of the content a better experience than piracy, rather than worrying about pirates and wasting brain cells coming up with the next free-but-not-free gimmick.

Lastly, to the author’s suggestion that hardware/software companies have to become media companies — well, this is not an old idea either.  The problem is, neither hardware/software companies nor media companies want to share because each wants it all.  On top of that, there are neat anti-trusts laws protecting us consumers from something like a DellMicrosoftNBCUniversalTimeWarner catastrophe (banish the thought now!).

In conclusion, can netbooks and media save each other?  I don’t know.  However, I do know selling a product for less than it cost to make and racing to the bottom in a price war is not a viable business plan.  Neither is free content.  I think hardware/software and media companies have to do the hard work and apply business fundamentals and some good old-fashion product innovation, as well as, take away the “free candy” from consumers in order to survive and thrive.  I think Apple is a great example of this on the hardware/software side.  As for media and piracy, if you want to beat the pirates, then join them and figure out how to make a paid experience that is much more appealing than piracy.  Again, I stress, media companies should impress upon potential customers that bad people can hide malicious code in free downloads.  I think this would be a far more compelling argument against piracy than copyright violation because you are offering protection from identity theft and the like, in addition to great entertainment.  (AUGH!!! It’s so frustrating watching the media industry pointlessly twisting in the breeze …)

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