Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Digital Media Vs Physical Media – Are We Ready To Make The Switch?

  • Digital Vs Physical
  • Data Caps
  • Bandwidth Throttling
  • Internet Speed and Prices
  • Internet Reliability
  • Hardware Reliability
  • Storage Requirement And Availability
  • Cloud Service
  • Hackers
  • Content Providers
The truth? No. We are not ready for an all digital media environment. It doesn’t take a genius to understand why we are not ready based on the reasons above.

Data Caps

If there is one thing we all know is that most ISPs love to put data caps on their customers. Some, like Comcast offer huge monthly data caps of 300 GBs (with an extra charge for ever 50 GBs after that), an amount that some would think is a lot but believe me, its not when you are downloading games that are as high as 25 GBs on your PC or gaming consoles. Then there is HD content, movies that exceed several GBs in size that are streamed thru services like Netflix and Hulu. And what about music? Radio stations are slowly being replaced with services like Pandora, Spotify and the newest players Google Music and iTunes Radio, all streamed online. You’d be amazed how much bandwidth these eat up and how many GBs you will go thru if you listen to music often. Take into account all of this plus your daily browsing, Youtube videos, email attachments and mix that with all your devices that access the Internet these days thru your WiFi network (cellphones, tablets, gaming consoles, PCs, TVs, media boxes, toys, appliances, A/C controllers, VoIP phones, etc) and you can easily see how small 300 GBs seems when you reach it before the next month rolls in. There are other ISP’s that have even lower data caps such as AT&T who imposed data caps of 150 GBs to their DSL customers.

Bandwidth Throttling

If data caps are bad enough we also have to deal with throttling (slowing down your service on specific sites or programs instead of providing the speeds you are paying for). AT&T and Comcast have been known to do this a lot. A quick search on Google shows AT&T and Comcast throttling Youtube and even torrents. Imaging having to wait days for a game to download when you should have gotten it faster because of the speeds you pay for? That would suck big time but its down all the time because these ISPs don’t want people to take advantage of them and thus make them lose money in some way.

Internet Speed And Prices

Thanks to Google’s Fiber Internet many ISPs have been forced to provide faster services at cheaper speeds in order to stay relevant as Google Fiber slowly (painfully slowly) makes it way into American homes but even then we still not only lag behind the rest of the world in Internet speeds but ISPs actually claim that they don’t provide it because they think we don’t need it. We all know its not about what we want but about them finding ways to make money off higher speeds. They know most people won’t pay a premium for really, really fast Internet so they simply raise the speeds a little every year and call it “we gave you a speed boast for free” promotions. But, what’s the point of speed if they still cap and throttle you? Some ISPs still charge an arm and a leg for faster speeds in some areas and some don’t even offer faster speeds. And then there are those who don’t even have Internet yet because they live in remote places where their only options is satellite Internet (unreliable, expensive and slow) or mobile Internet (also unreliable, expensive and slow).

Internet Reliability

Data Caps, Bandwidth Throttling, Internet Speeds and Prices, none of that matters if your service in unreliable. Many out there made a big stink over MS’s 24 hour check in requirement for the Xbox One before MS decided to do a 180 on this and it made sense because not only are Internet services not reliable today they are not everywhere either. Some argued that this feature was no big deal and that people shouldn’t complain but in reality it’s a valid argument. Every time a storm passes where I live both Internet and power are disrupted. Power usually comes back fast, but ISPs are not as quick to react. More often than not my Internet drops for no apparent reason and sometimes when for days without a fix. Unfair when your system would have required a check in every 24 hours unlike other similar services that could go for weeks before requiring a check in.

Hardware Reliability

Remember the red ring of death the Xbox was known for? These days people still have hardware issues that can easily prevent them from enjoying their content. All it takes is for your hard drive to fail and all the digital files you downloaded need to be downloaded again once you are able to change the drive or replace the entire system. Routers and modems also break from time to time thus preventing you from downloading any new digital content.

Storage Requirement And Availability

This can also be another issue. These days most people don’t see it because physical media is still available to consoles (not so much on PCs) but once you start filling up your hard drive with massive games that take up several GBs each you’ll start to notice the limitations. To make matters worse changing hard drives on current systems is no piece of cake and next gen console apparently are even worse. Add the fact that to get more space you gotta pay up the ying yang for a bigger drive on consoles and storage space becomes a problem. On a PC its easy, you add more drives or backup the current drive and replace it with a bigger one and restore the OS and software. But not everyone is tech savvy enough to do this and hard drives are still a tad bit expensive, especially if you want an SSD for the speed.

Cloud Service

Cloud services are still in their infancy. They depend on the speed, reliability and hardware you have in order to function properly. They are also expensive in some cases. Netflix is pretty cheap but lacks a lot of content because some networks simply refuse to share their content thru streaming (because of greed). However storage sites like Google Drive, Dropbox and even iCloud are expensive because they are based on the amount of GBs you want or need to store your digital content. Bare in mind this service also affects the data caps. This will definitely be the key to the switch to digital content but for now they are too restricted, expensive in some cases and don’t always provide that much content.

Gov’t And Hackers

And then there are Gov’t and hackers. Time and again we see stories about hackers accessing peoples private content, damaging systems and causing all kinds of havoc. Losing access to your digital content thanks to hackers would really suck. But just as bad is a Gov’t who is determined to gather every piece of data on their citizens and in some cases without their citizens knowing it (NSA, The Patriot Act, President Obama). Last thing you want is to have it all digital thus making it easier for the Gov’t to get it all and know it all in a moment.

Content Providers

But the biggest problem are the very people providing the content. All it would take is for Steam, MS or Netflix to believe you are breaking the ToS in some way and you will be locked out from all of your content even though you paid for it and its legitimately your (in most cases) because in order to use it you have to access their services which they can block.

In the end thanks to greed from the hardware developers and ISPs we are not ready because we still have too many obstacles to get passed before we can stop wasting money on disks for music, movies and games. Having the physical content handy can help prevent any of these issues from hurting you because you have it in your hands and unless you lose it or break it you can use it when ever you want. You can even sell it and get a few bucks back and money back is always good.

This can also spell disaster for our economy as many companies will go the way of the dinosaur like Gamestop and F.Y.E., brick and mortar stores that sell physical games, movies and music. Several other stores like Walmart, Best Buy and Target will have to eliminate their music, movie and video game sections. Eve local movie and video game rental stores like Redbox, Blockbuster and GameFly would go out of business, in part anyways. We are already suffering from unemployment and a weak economy.

It just doesn’t seem like we are ready for the change just yet even though PC gaming has mostly moved to a digital content platform for video games and Netflix is almost becoming a cable cutting alternative to cable TV.

What do you think? Are we ready to go all digital? Do you think Microsoft should have stuck to its guns and focused on moving towards a more digital platform or is Sony right that people still prefer physical content over digital?

This article was inspired by the story linked below.

http://www.maximumpc.com/article/news/through_sonys_eyes_vast_majority_gamers_prefer_gamestop_over_buying_online2013

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Thanks for reading. Please feel free to leave a comment below about your thoughts on this. +1 it if you liked it. Share it if you’re inclined. Much appreciated.  :+D

Chatterbox Chuck

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