Memo To HP: Content Adds Its Own Value

I Have Seen the Future and I Am Opposed

But what about the Internet, an open system, with open standards where any browser has instant access to all of its delights? Isn’t this the wave of the future? Yes, but this future is in danger of becoming one of walled gardens, where different services are contained within the bounds of subscriptions. Want one group of television shows? Join this garden. Want another? Join that garden. Want news articles, there is yet another garden to join. Want to buy a book or magazine for your electronic reader? You might have to match the item to the reader, the service provider and perhaps even the device. Different items will be sold through different distributors and not all will work on your particular brand of reader. We will all have to purchase multiple brands of readers.

There is only one big thing HP could do to kill its chances of success with webOS: Do what Apple does. Force everyone to pass through your funnel to get to customers.

These things should be obvious:

1) Nature does not like monopolies, it favors variety.

2) The Internet does not like monopolies, it favors variety.

3) Apple’s restrictions stifle the creativity they once embraced and are an embarrassment.

4) You do not need to bleed money out of content creators to gain value from them — open access to content available creates its own value.

There is a halo effect to having content outside of your walls. This is what enabled the iPod to succeed. People didn’t have to buy music only from Apple. The iPod could play their existing MP3 files and ripped Compact Discs. If the iPod had come out with the current strangulation method Apple practices with the iPhone and iPad, it would have been a niche product. (There are those who will now bring up Amazon and the Kindle: That is a different instance. And the fact people cannot easily transfer their print libraries to e without additional cost has hampered it — and every eBook device’s — sales for years. What usually happens is that people stop buying print books and then wait for print titles they own to go on deep sales to replace them.)

Prior to the Internet, there was The Source, CompuServe, Prodigy, AOL, and others. The Internet — with its variety, its lack of monopoly — wiped out all of them.

It’s too early for me to tell what direction HP will take. I only hope that within the company they recognize the lesson the Internet provides and see the wisdom of Nature’s method.

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