Someone once again told me my posts are too long. To compensate for my circumlocution, I shall offer the recipe to become a millionaire.
Nevermind, after writing this long post while overlooking the big pacific blue, I discover that it’s already been thought up and shared by the owner of a basketball team.
The other week I had lunch with a friend from college. He’s finishing up at a prestigious law school, but he won’t be taking the bar exam. In fact, he says he’ll never practice law at all. You see, he’s come down with entrepreneurial fever. It’s everywhere here in the Bay Area. Sometimes it seems that if you’re not an entrepreneur, then you’re no one at all.
So this friend of mine, he decided to spend his third year of law school forming a company, a business model, and a sleek powerpoint presentation with a couple of fellow students. He was telling me about it over a couple beers while I realized that they’ve got all the pieces in place for success: a marketable idea; a young, bright, and multi-ethnic team to impress early investors; and a dedicated, focused, passion to make it work.
I gave him some feedback on how I think they can make the product/service more successful. If I were
smart motivated by money, I would have kept those ideas to myself or at least have told him that I consult on web-related services to content management and distribution.
But the problem is that I’m not motivated by money: there is no new car I really want to buy, or expensive neighborhood I’d like to live in, or Mediterranean resort island I’d like to visit. What motivates me are walks around Lake Merritt with Mari and library books; both of which are free.
This morning I had to pick up a dresser that we found on Craig’s List. The long drive to San Bruno allowed me to catch up on my podcasts including Eduardo Arcos’ ALT1040. He was talking about the distribution of HD television shows and movies over the web. Just one HD television show, they said, could take up to six or seven hours. I was reminded of a realization I had in Venezuela.
All up and down Sabana Grande, where I was staying and eventually got mugged, are stalls and stalls of vendors selling pirated, burned CD’s for about a quarter each. Of course, this is common all over the world, but Caracas was the first time it clicked in my head that these tent-covered stalls are essentially a distribution channel (even, a user interface) of the internet. Computers, broadband connections, and CD/DVD burners are still relatively rare in Venezuela. So, instead, a centralized “mafia” of users download the songs and movies, burn thousands of discs, and distribute them throughout the neighborhoods of Caracas.
This is basically the business model that
is was going to make you a millionaire.
Though I have been christened the “24-hour tech support” of this relationship, Mari is undoubtedly sys admin of all things related to NetFlix. She’s on top of her shit: updating the queue, checking the mailbox, sending back the viewed DVDs. This is something I could do once a week, but not with the Jedi-like daily consistency that comes to her naturally. But, there’s a problem – sometimes the discs are scratched. Or, like last week when we rented Big Night (highly recommended), they’re broken in two.
Here’s how to make your millions:
- Develop a Tivo-like machine that uses an ejectable, small, 100 gigabyte hard drive.
- Sketch out plans of a central digital library that stores copies of the music and videos you’ll offer.
- Develop a web-based iTunes-like store that will download the content your customers rent (rather than “buy” … if iTunes DRM content can be considered “bought”) to their 100 gigabyte hardrives until they’re ready to have it sent out to them. (Like netflix, they send in a hard drive and another gets sent out).
Rather than dealing with discs every day and an unmanageable queue (we’ve got around 200 movies on our queue), they’ll download all the music, tv shows, and movies they want and have them all arrive in their mailbox within a day or two.
Obviously, you’ll have to protect the hard drives with DRM to not get sued and you’ll have to either buy a DVD for every digital copy that is sent out or work out a deal with the record labels and studios. CDs and DVDs are fragile and low-capacity. Hard drives are high capacity, sturdier, and longer lasting. It makes more sense to distribute HD content via the mail than over the internet. Especially when people want to watch the shows on their TV, not their computer.
Or you could file a process patent and sell the idea to Apple by convincing them that they already have the iTunes interface and that they could add the hard drive capabilities to the upcoming iTV.
Or … maybe that’s the plan:
The reason for the included USB port is one of the iTV’s great mysteries. Our first guesses are that it either serves the same purpose as the USB port on the current AirPort Express or that it’s for connecting your iPod, instantly giving you access to all the movies, TV shows, podcasts, and music stored there.
Other theories we have seem more in the realm of wishful thinking than likely answers. Perhaps the iTV will optionally accept an external USB hard drive, and play back media stored on the drive?