Today I went to the Apple store to fix or replace my poor Powerbook, Stan, which has the temperamental screen and external monitor jack. They decided the problem was the logic board, and it turned out that if we replaced the logic board, it would cost about $1000-$1200 dollars, since we hadn’t purchased AppleCare. Argh, not buying Applecare turned out to be a big mistake after all… So we threw in the towel and bought a new Powerbook.
When deciding which model to buy, I was deciding between the model with the Superdrive and the model without… suddenly, I had an epiphany. I didn’t need to buy the model with a DVD burner built in. Why not? First of all, my old laptop has a DVD burner, and while the screen is fux0red, if you wiggle it in the right way it’s still usable.
More importantly, I realized that DVDs are obsolete. They’re dead media. DVDs, CDs, ZIP disks, floppies… they’re all obsolete, even if the content industry doesn’t realize it yet. Why do I say that? Well, think.
Who lugs around crates of CDs these days, or even CD wallets? Personally, I left most of my CDs at home when I went to college. My music is all on my computer, mostly in mp3 format, with some OGGs and FLAC files mixed in. I don’t know where my Discman has gone… I haven’t used it in years. I’ve been living without a portable music player, but that’s about to change because I’m getting an iPod mini with that new Powerbook.
The iPod mini doesn’t take CDs or Minidiscs or any other swappable medium. It’s a portable hard drive and is far more convenient and compact than any Discman ever was. I tell you now that the future is in data that is released from discs and floppies, digital data can flow freely regardless of what medium in which it was originally packaged, and the natural end result will be for the containers to disappear. The content industry is trying to hold back this future, by putting copy protection on CDs and DVDs, by trying to put a broadcast flag on TV and radio to prevent you from grabbing that data off the air, by suing gizmos like ReplayTV out of existence, but ultimately if that makes it too inconvenient for the customer, people will find their way around those restrictions. I don’t want my data to be trapped on a CD.
I know that when my friend gave me a mix CD, the first thing I did with it was to rip it to my computer so that I could listen to it, and I put the original in a safe place on my shelf. I don’t actually use that CD… It’s not the CD, after all, that made the mix valuable for me, it was the time and effort that she put into it, it was the letter that came along with it, it was the personal attention… a mix just for me. I think that in the future, as audio editing software becomes easier to use, people will personalize their mixes like DJs, transitioning in and out of songs, throwing in clips here and there… and then they will send that mix in an e-mail or IM, or bring it over on a USB keychain drive. I think the future is definitely in portable hard drives or flash drives.
Of course, I suppose I’m assuming a free culture future, where the digital locks are broken or companies have become enlightened enough that they no longer bother with digital locks. Look at Magnatune, and their Tuneplug idea, where they partner with a maker of USB thumbdrives to have the drive ship with some of their music on it. The customer can empty the drive out, put the music somewhere else, and use the USB drive for their own purposes. The container is independent of the data.
What do you think? Do you agree with my predictions?