The Future Battle: Devices that Subscribe to Synchronized Content

In the end, he who successfully sells the package of “cool looking devices that subscribe to content” wins.  Hopefully I’m not simply stating the obvious on this one.

Stick with me for a second…


Look how Steve Jobs revived Apple when he returned.  He knew that people would be totally into a portable cool-looking device (aka iPod) that would link with the world’s powerful online entertainment content store (iTunes).   I have yet to own an iPod – my Zune works fine (the price I paid was fine too – free).

Cable Company

Same model.  The box/device in front of your tube, synchronizing to content all the time.  Broadcasted or on-demand.  Seriously when are people going to stop watching broadcast TV altogether, it’s not like we’re chatting at the water cooler about it every week anymore. Maybe I’m ignoring some large demographics here, but you get my point…  Cable speed is getting faster and faster – the only limit is your device(s) and your broadband speed.  I’m honestly surprised more people aren’t starting little TV/video shows from their house.  Someone please deliver me something reminscent of Wayne’s World… Who’s up for the challenge?

IoMega and Media Centers

There is great potential here. Soon I’d imagine you’ll be able to link all your devices (laptop, MP3 player, TV, camera) to synchronized content stored at home (I think everything is true of today’s iStor product).  The same is being done today with various other media centers, the most successful model either Apple TV or the Xbox-based media center.  Look at their partnership with Netflix to stream movies (already a million). One would only expect a “game rental” version of this to follow – maybe with a company like GameFly. I expect we’ll stop calling it the “TV Room” in under ten yearsAnd soon we’ll all compare the size of our digital libraries like some of us compare the size of our music collection – in GBs.

GMail versus Outlook

I think Outlook has an edge here.  But that’s me, I like the bells and whistles of Outlook.  Gmail is nice at home, but for the office it doesn’t do things like Sort, Calendaring, and Tasks very well.  Google Apps for Business is starting to sell hard.  They just released Offline Gmail capabilities which allows you to read and write emails when not on a network.  It’s under the Labs area, which doesn’t give me a warm fuzzy, but this single feature is being discussed in some magazines as the final step towards real consideration for large companies.   Gmail is also far easier to receive on a device (i.e. the ones without a connection to Exchange).

Amazon Kindle

Even Oprah is loving this ebook reader.  Amazon utilized their core understanding of online selling and inventory delivery to deliver reading material (books, blogs, ebooks) via the cloud.  They bundle the internet service for free, knowing that they will be able  to manage these network costs over a long-term period. They let you pick from a huge selection of books. You can subscribe to blogs with it. They are playing with interesting features like text to speech conversion, but I don’t know about you – I can’t stand listening to the “Speak and Spell” voice reading me anything.   Another problem is the high pricing of individual books (some have no discount from the paper copy) and this puts a major stop for me to consider ponying up the $360 for Kindle 2.  I’m sure it’s more a publisher issue than Amazon’s issue.  And I’m disappointed they took the opposite direction with regards to DRM that they did in the music industry.  It’s where I buy all my MP3’s, specifically because I see a lot of people that are stuck on iTunes and their AAC files for a while til they find the conversion tools to free their music.


Licensing to Apple and now Google.  People with Google and Apple phones want to get their email on their phone.  ActiveSync lets devices subscribe to Exchange server content (just be aware of overwriting your existing contacts with your Exchange contacts).

And soon Microsoft will enter:

“Google’s Google Sync sounds very much like the Microsoft My Phone (Skybox) service that the Redmondians are slated to launch next week at the World Mobile Congress show in Barcelona.”

And everyone talking about Skybox is comparing it to Apple’s MobileMe:

“The most interesting member of the new Microsoft mobile trio, Skybox, is a hub for user data and information — a place for storing and accessing photos, contact lists, calendar items and more on Microsoft datacenter servers. If you lose or switch your phone, all your data and contacts are saved in your Skybox. Skybox is based on the Mobicomp synchronization technologies that the Redmondians acquired when they purchased the Portuguese services company Mobicomp in the summer of 2008.”

Microsoft’s SkyMarket is like the iPhone App Store.   More about the entire “Sky” lineup here. Microsoft doesn’t like the word Cloud, they prefer Sky.  For a wildly expansive mind map of the Cloud Market, check this out.

Here’s another subscription “vehicle” embedded within a ’96 Porsche 911.  Can I get this guys job?

How Virtualization Enables Enterprise Data Subscription

Enter virtualization.  Because virtual machines are removed of their hardware chains, virtualized server builds can be built onsite, and then shipped off into the cloud, off premise,  to be managed in a remote datacenter (perhaps run by a different company who specializes in hosted virtualized servers).  The use cases are revolutionary.  DBA’s and application owners can put together a server without much intervention.   People can push their physical servers off into the cloud. You can imagine a hybrid model start to take shape (on-premise plus cloud) allowing for (once again) enterprise data subscription of devices to a content provider. In this case, each virtual machine is a content provider.  Devices could be full clients / desktop computers or thin clients such as Wyse or Citrix.

One of the coolest “device” companies in this space is Pano Logic who makes a custom machine (without an operating system) that directly connects/subscribes to a virtual machine via virtual desktop interfaces. Not just hardware here, just another cool looking device that “subscribes” to content… all of this brought to you by the internet.

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2 thoughts on “The Future Battle: Devices that Subscribe to Synchronized Content

  1. Jeffrey Henning

    Great post, Brian, but how could you leave out the Kindle?! Think of the dramatic effect this will have on Amazon’s business model if it takes off. It’s not quite subscription, but the purchase of ebooks is seamless and the wireless service is included free of charge.

    Best regards,

    – Jeffrey “survey software guru :-)” Henning

  2. Brian Post author

    Ah – great point JSSGH, I will have to make an update… I guess it hasn’t impacted me personally as it’s still one of these things I haven’t had a chance to test out. If I was on the commuter rail every day, I think I’d do it. My brother has one and swears by it.

    I believe as the price comes down to mass-affordable levels (I’m sure they have deluxe and economy models coming up down the road), that more people will see it’s genius.

    Right now it’s in this weird place between your notebook/netbook computer and the bookstore. Besides having a real “need” for it, the bottom line for me is that I’m not ready to dish out cash for every book I buy. Right now I have books I borrow from, get as gifts, or (old fashioned I know) get them from the libary. Essentially my book budget is unless I splurge on something at the airport when traveling.

    I think Seth Godin has some good thoughts on where the Kindle could improve (especially a “big fans” discount – where if you read a book on Kindle in the first few days it’s free).

    So when are you guys gonna make the Vovici mobile device to host surveys on?


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