After Hours

Peter Cochrane's Blog: The turntable spins on

The music industry should stop fighting a war that it can't win and start thinking about new business models

Compiled at my home on a sunny autumn day over a morning coffee and dispatched to silicon.com via wi-fi.

Ten years ago a 19-year-old Shawn Fanning launched Napster and music file-sharing; and the property rights war has been raging ever since. Out of this came iTunes and other online services, but the tech evolution is unlikely to stop.

The music industry has wasted millions on intellectual property battles and digital rights management, and it looks as though the movie industry is intent on doing the same. More recently governments and regulators have spotted this huge opportunity to waste time, money and resources, and they too are stepping into the fray!

What is obvious to most of us, but none of them, is that this is all about change. You just cannot stop market-driven technology, it will continue to evolve, and it will invoke even more change. The tape recorder, CD, MP3, Walkman, iPod, mobile phone player et al are all disruptive and business-changing technologies, and trying to stop them is futile.

I think we can safely say that the music industry really goofed with MP3 wars, but then they always try and stop anything new, and it seems the movie industry share the same mind-set. Ultimately I think we can confidently predict that they too will lose the battle!

As we enter the web 2.0 phase, with cloud computing on the horizon, I am now seeing more and more online jukeboxes of music and movies. The range and quality of the content is both comprehensive and serendipitous. So my laptop is now a jukebox and a cinema!

This begs the question; why download anything if it is all available online? Well, it depends on the bandwidth and quality of connection available. Obviously, those living with access to 'real broadband' will fare well, while the rest will be frozen out of this market.

Critics will observe that this isn't rocket science, it's only a streaming server with a GUI. But what intrigues me is beyond the basic technology, it is the way in which these sites will spread, the difficulty in tracking and monitoring them, and best of all, the pending rise of new business models.

And should industry, governments and regulators, think that this is the last gasp of innovation in this arena, they need to think again. Waiting in the wings we have mobile mesh networking, dynamic URL allocation, new forms of crypto and much more. But worse of all for the detractors; out there are thousands of Junior Shawn Fanning plotting even more stage left surprises that none of us can yet imagine!

In the future it will be far easier for music and movie services to go underground and become invisible. So the industry better get to work on new business models, while government and regulators need to rethink their strategy and interest levels. The past 10 years of tech evolution changed everything, but it is accelerating, and the next will do even more!

About Peter Cochrane

Peter Cochrane is an engineer, scientist, entrepreneur, futurist and consultant. He is the former CTO and head of research at BT, with a career in telecoms and IT spanning more than 40 years.

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