Sunday , July 21 2024

Tech and Content Shotgun Wedding

The tech manufacturers and content providers have been making nice of late:

    “Content is king,” trumpeted Carleton S. Fiorina, the chairman and chief executive of the Hewlett-Packard Company, as she opened the National Association of Broadcasters convention last week in Las Vegas. The slogan was old, but still sweet to the entertainment community, which packed the show to hear her.

    The company tossed out technology goodies as well, like a new system that could sharply lower the costs of animation. Hewlett also announced plans to develop film restoration and post-production technology with Warner Brothers.

    Not to be outdone, Apple Computer Inc. introduced a special-effects program and the newest version of its editing technology. The Microsoft Corporation showed off a program to edit and broadcast high-definition television content in real time.

    The techies played so hard to the show business crowd, it was easy to forget the two industries were ever at war.

    It was just two years ago, that Michael D. Eisner, chief executive of the Walt Disney Company, and a top executive at the Intel Corporation screamed at each other across a packed Senate hearing room. Mr. Eisner accused the technology industry of encouraging the theft of music and movies over the Internet and of enabling Napster and its file-swapping clones to flourish. The Intel executive, Leslie L. Vadasz, fired back that Mr. Eisner needed to “deal with the new digital world.”

    The fight was bigger than Intel and Disney. Each industry thought it was battling for survival.

    Things had not gotten that ugly since Jack Valenti, the longtime chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America, famously said the VCR was “to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to a woman home alone.”

    But a funny thing has happened since those Senate hearings. The combatants went home. The rhetoric died down. And lately they have started working together. Why?

    With growth slowing in both entertainment and technology, players on both sides started to accept an uncomfortable reality: they simply could not afford to go on fighting. The ability to deliver movies and music over the Internet in a pirate-proof format could mean big money for movie and record companies, which have long complained about the expenses of manufacturing and distributing their wares.

    ….While Steven P. Jobs, Apple’s chief executive, rules the digital-entertainment world so far, Ms. Fiorina is running hard to catch up.

    In the last year, Hewlett licensed iPod technology for its own digital music player; began a music cafe with the Starbucks Corporation, where coffee drinkers can burn CD’s; and provided financing and laptops to Robert Redford’s Sundance Film Festival. That last move earned Ms. Fiorina the Sundance Institute’s “Risk-Takers in the Arts” award for her contributions to film, and an introduction by Sally Field at a ceremony last Thursday night in New York.

    Bill Gates, the chairman of Microsoft, is also eager to cash in., Microsoft’s Internet portal, offers video games, music and Disney movies for downloading; the company hopes it will seed the market for its digital media player and antipiracy software. Microsoft also powers Movielink, the film download service backed by the major studios.

    Intel has developed its own antipiracy technology, which has been licensed by Warner Brothers. And consumer electronics makers are making their own digital media players.

    The benefits to consumers are just beginning to show. While downloading music onto an iPod or a similar music player is commonplace, Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and others are pushing for a completely digitized home. Their vision starts with a central media player used for personal computing, downloading movies and television and listening to music.

    Content from that system could be sent wirelessly to any other media players or computers in the house. Technologists have talked up the concept for years, but it is just now becoming feasible.

    ….”Hollywood people never used to understand what we do,” said Neil Young, the executive in charge of production at Electronic Arts, the video-game company. “Now they play video games, use technology and just happen to have found themselves in a different industry.”

    Finally, the importance of Terry S. Semel’s journey from Hollywood to Silicon Valley cannot be underestimated. Mr. Semel, the ex-Warner Brothers chairman and co-chief executive, raised eyebrows, and hackles, when he went to lead Yahoo. When the company flourished under him, cross-industry griping diminished. [NY Times]

This is swell and I’m glad they like each other so much, but where does the consumer fit into the picture? It seems as though one of the main bones of contention – that the content people want maximum security for their content, and the tech manufacturers wanted to keep things as flexible as possible – has been resolved in favor of the content people, which is exactly contrary to consumer rights and their ability to use the content they rightfully purchase as they see fit.

About Eric Olsen

Career media professional and serial entrepreneur Eric Olsen flung himself into the paranormal world in 2012, creating the America's Most Haunted brand and co-authoring the award-winning America's Most Haunted book, published by Berkley/Penguin in Sept, 2014. Olsen is co-host of the nationally syndicated broadcast and Internet radio talk show After Hours AM; his entertaining and informative America's Most Haunted website and social media outlets are must-reads: Twitter@amhaunted,, Pinterest America's Most Haunted. Olsen is also guitarist/singer for popular and wildly eclectic Cleveland cover band The Props.

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