Monday, May 22, 2006

portability: the personal media center

The M3 Adapter GBA Movie Player purports to allow Nintendo DS users to watch movies, listen to music, and G-d help me, play homebrew games. They cost about $90. This is the price of poker for GBA and NDS lovers to get the same multimedia playback abilities of the PSP.

Before you can play, though, you need to buy a memory card. One version of the M3 Adapter supports miniSD cards - dealram shows 2GB miniSD cards running from $65 to $107. By comparison, an equivalent 2GB Memory Stick Pro Duo for the PSP would run from $78 to $167.

All in, tricking a Nintendo DS (or DS Lite) or a PSP as a portable media center will cost about $300. The additional opportunity cost associated with the major pain in the a$$ required to move content onto the device adds untold thousands to the bill.

The lesson here is that people are willing to put up with all manner of bull%$#^ (and expense ) for the privilege of carrying around their favorite media.

This is OK for nerds like me. But what will it take to move this experience into the nerd-free mainstream?

Ideally, I'd like to be able to move content from the DVDs I buy and the content I download directly from either my computer or my DVD player to some sort of mobile device. This device should store the media on a memory device, not on a hard drive.

I am willing to have the license for this content moved to my device with the media - but only in exchange for brain-dead simplicity.

Ideally I'd like to have the option of renting or buying the content I download, and for converting a rental to an owned license.

Ideally, I'd like to combine music and video on the same device.

I don't need to be able to redirect the display of this portable device to a TV.

I want to be able to browse available content by genre, title, director, actor/actress, studio, date of release and "popularity".

Here's what's in it for the publishers of the media - making it easy for clowns like me to get quick, easy and affordable access to the odd crap I like to watch (Kurosawa's Ran, anyone?) means that they can target me for other odd crap that I'm likely to like. Add all of the Bobs up and you have lots of niche markets who will eagerly self-identify for their content of choice.

It's axiomatic that targeted marketing is cheaper than mass-marketing. Doing targeted marketing on the massive scale enabled by this sort of transaction makes it affordable for studios to create content for niche markets - content they've avoided making because it doesn't sell to the unwashed masses.

But with access to niche markets with an appetite for niche content, you turn the equation around.

Will everyone want to carry their favorite music with them? You betcha.

Will everyone want to carry their favorite video with them? If it's accessible, affordable, easy to transfer and available in a steady drip stream, you betcha.

Here's the use case:

"I'll take BBC World, Adult Swim and the Daily Show every day, and the next movie in the Sonny Chiba queue at the beginning of the month. Show me a few other things you think I'd like. Let me queue those up, set the date for swapping Sonny Chiba out for the Yun-Fat Chow series. If I don't get to it, don't charge me for it, but remember that I was interested in it. Also brief me on new items in the following categories, and flag me on the top 10 ranked content items from the following groups."

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