My Ah-Ha moment on content portability

An overly generous Santa Claus left a very nice gift for me under the tree this year, a shiny new Apple iPad Mini with both WiFi and 4G access. Considering I already own a first generation full size iPad, an iTouch, two Apple iPhone 4s, the latest Apple MacBookPro, a MacMini, a MacPro tower and an Apple TV, the further acquisition of Mini might seem a bit redundant but at the time I purchased each item I had superbly constructed argument for why each was indispensable for my continuing education as an industry analyst. The fact that various family members have equally well-reasoned arguments for why they need to borrow (rather permanently) some of these purchases may factor into the acquisition equation.

I might as well add that I was the proud owner of a first generation Amazon Kindle and became a voracious consumer of e-books, fed by my lifelong passion for cheesy science fiction novels. I didn’t let the early Kindle’s lack of a backlit screen keep me from taking it everywhere, including a poorly lit local dive where a lovely lass angrily told me that if I expected to meet ladies I should get my nose out of the device. That Kindle succumbed to a known screen malfunction that caused a significant number of the first gen units to be replaced but by then I had fallen in love with the Kindle app on my iTouch (which gave my face an eerie glow when reading from it in dark places and cemented my reputation with the ladies).

Despite Apple’s preference that I do all my book consumption using the iBook app and their store, the fact that I started my e-book library using the Kindle explains why Amazon’s app is installed on all my devices, including the full-blown laptops and office computers (the fact that Apple doesn’t have a Mac version of iBooks is another factor in my decision).

Recently I have found myself reading the same book on a variety of the devices, depending on where I happen to be at the time and which device was the closest. One of the things that I really love about the Kindle app is that it remembers where I left off reading (even when I forget to bookmark the last page read) and asks me if I want to skip to the furthest read page on the new device. And the fact that my library, now numbering in the hundreds of books, resides in a cloud equally accessible from every device equipped with the app linked to my Kindle account, means there are no memory storage issues, even when using the now lowly 4Gb iTouch that doubles as a SiriusXM satellite radio interface in the car. Amazon has me as a customer for life as long as they don’t screw up their app in an effort to ‘improve’ it or limit my freedom to access content. The ‘Ah-Ha’ moment came when I downloaded the Kindle app on to my new iPad Mini (which tracks me through the Apple ID account that links all my devices) and it automatically asked me if it wanted to sync to the furthest point in the book I had been last reading on my full-size iPad.

There is an important object lesson for video content owners and distributors in my Kindle app experience. There is a vision of the future that I first detailed in a 2006 report on online video published by Nielsen (by whom I was then employed) subtitled Whatever, Whenever, Wherever. If I were to update the report today I would add Whichever device. My video app should work at least as well as my book reading app. Ideally I don’t want to have to deal with a plethora of competing video providers, each with a different set of rights and content availability. Make it easy for me to pay you for content (love Amazon’s ‘one-click’ feature). Remember what rights I own and make it available wherever I am, on whichever device I happen to have close by and automatically bookmark where I was the last time I accessed that particular digital file. Treat me with respect as a viewer and I may even submit to watching an advert or two, as long as you don’t make me watch the same 30-second commercial over and over again and your app should be smart enough to remember that I am a male of a certain age and any ads you serve me espousing the wonderful properties of state-of-the art female hygiene products are wasted ad budget.

As an experienced appraiser of movie and TV assets and the veteran of dozens of expert witness assignments involving video rights, I am keenly aware of how complicated the issues of windowing and business rules for video can become in a world where Netflix, Amazon, Google, Hulu, Apple, Comcast, HBO, Dish, TiVo and many others all want the largest piece of the online video pie.

As a viewer who is willing to pay a reasonable sum for my digital video content, give me something as simple and elegant as the Kindle app that treats me like a grownup and reasonably sophisticated customer and I am yours.

Larry Gerbrandt

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