(keitai-l) Re: Is music download over 3G a possible business?

From: Curt Sampson <cjs_at_cynic.net>
Date: 04/28/03
Message-ID: <Pine.NEB.4.51.0304282239530.595@angelic-vtfw.cvpn.cynic.net>
On Mon, 28 Apr 2003, Helen Keegan - BeepMarketing Ltd wrote:

> It seems to me that there is an opportunity (subject to
> getting the battery life right), to make mobile handsets the new walkmans by
> taking advantage of the media slot.
> ...
> I'd love to see 3G being successful but it's going to take a very long time
> to change ingrained habits such as buying music from record shops.

The ingrained habit with a phone is to download stuff using the built-in
web browser. (Well, in Japan, anyway.) There seems to be no problem
downloading ringtones, for example. If it were easy to do, fast and
cheap, I don't think that there would be a problem. It would probably
start a reversal in consumption habits, too, in that people would move
away from LPs back towards singles.

But the biggest problem with using the built-in media slot is the cost
of the media. A CD costs a few cents; with case, insert and everything
the cost has been well under a dollar for some time. A 64 MB card is
currently about 3000 yen retail, and I'd estimate, even with the price
falling by half every eighteen months, it's going to be four to five
years before one could even think about selling songs on electronic
media rather than optical. Still, it could easily be that long before
data gets cheap enough and fast enough that one could comfortably
download songs on the keitai, too, unless the providers change something
to make this happen faster.

As far as the data costs that someone else mentioned, I'm working on
the assumption that they're going to come down to something reasonable.
There's enough competition that there's no reason that this can't
happen, though it may not be cellular data that we end up using. It
seems reasaonably likely that the short-range technologies (PHS and
802.11-style stuff) will take over in that area.

The 802.11 thing is a bit problematic in that competition in the open
part of the spectrum leads to unbearably low data rates as everyone
tries to use the same space at the same time, but licensing some
spectrum for that could easily allow a half dozen people in a particular
(square 150 m) area to be downloading at a megabit per second each,
giving each of them the latest hit single in half a minute or so. And
even the current PHS spectrum supports at least an aggregate bandwidth
of, what, 80 KB/sec (20 channels * 32 Kbps) in a (square 500 m to 200 m)
area, giving one person, anyway, the ability to download a single in 45
seconds or so.

I wouldn't go so far as to say this will actually happen. But as
far as moving the data around, the technical issues are not at all
insurmountable. A much bigger barrier is whether data providers care
to switch from a "scarce, expensive" resource model to a "lots of it
and cheap" resource model, at the cost of short-term profits. This is
possible; take a look at where PHS data seems to be going. But an even
bigger barrier yet is whether the owners of the content are going to
completely reverse course from preventing copying at any cost to selling
a lot at the cost of some "lost" revenue from copying. They seemed to be
able to more or less live with the copying in the analogue age (though
with a lot of reservations, as the whole home videotape battle shows),
but at this point the RIAA, it seems, belives that if it allows even the
amount of copying that it used to allow the world will end for them.

I think Sony might be the one to watch over the next few years to see
where this might go. Sony is currently fighting a pitched internal
battle between the hardware arm (which wants to make it easy for the
consumer to put his music where he wants it, at the cost of making it
easier to get music without paying for it) and the content arm (which
would prefer that consumers not have the music at all than get any
without paying for it). And who wins that battle will probably, in
the end, come down to whether governments will support the content
owners' wish to make illegal the technology that allows easy copying.
There's no way to stop the copying with technology itself, but if enough
governments outlaw the technology, it will never spread.

It almost reminds me of pre-Meiji Japan, really. The content providers
would at this point be perfectly happy to lose the chance at big gains,
if they can avoid the chance of big losses. And there aren't any black
ships on the horizon this time....

Curt Sampson  <cjs_at_cynic.net>   +81 90 7737 2974   http://www.netbsd.org
    Don't you know, in this new Dark Age, we're all light.  --XTC
Received on Mon Apr 28 17:16:23 2003