On Monday, I talked about new technology putting companies out of business. I specifically mentioned watches and cell phones, but people seem to prefer the example of Blockbuster. Blockbuster was a huge company that rented movies and videogames. Last year, they filed for bankrupcy, and all their stores are being shut down.
The coroner determined that the cause of death was Blockbuster's inability to handle competition from competing movie distribution services like Netflix and Redbox and Direct TV. In particular, digital distribution provided a killer blow to Blockbuster, because everyone would rather get their movies instantly, instead of having to drive all the way to Blockbuster to get them. (Plus, the digital distributors have a wider variety of movies available).
The obvious problem I can see with having all your things on a digital device--whether it's files on a computer, or songs on your cell phone, or games on your DS--is that you're probably going to lose the device, or it's going to break, and then you don't have anything. Computers and cell phones break or malfunction with alarming frequency.
Speaking of which, I am officially unhappy with computers, because they have a life expectancy of two to five years. I want my devices to have a life expectancy of 80 years, thank you very much. With all the fancy technology they have today, you'd think that it'd be possible to make a device that lasts a long time.
Some companies don't do anything if your device breaks, and you lose all your files. That's what my phone company does, anyway (Thanks, Verizon!). Some companies keep a record of your past purchases, and they allow you to download things over and over again. So when I get a new computer, I can re-download the games I had on the old computer. At least, that's how it works on the third party gaming sites I've used (Big Fish Games, Telltale Games, Playfirst Games). I haven't tried it with Amazon or iTunes, but maybe they have a similar system. It seems like a good enough way to overcome the problem of "What if all my digital possessions disappear?"
Most companies seem to be switching to digital distribution, probably because it's a lot cheaper. And some people foresee a future where you can only purchase videogames, books, movies, etc. in digital formats. True, people said the same thing fourteen years ago, and it still hasn't happened yet, but it could happen.
Some companies and industries are handling the change better than others. Print industries, like newspapers and books, are dying painfully. Videogames seem to be doing better, thanks to the popularity of online gaming services like Xbox Live and iPhone games. The music industry seems to be doing okay too, even though they said they wouldn't be.
Does anyone remember when the CD companies made a huge fuss about how digital distribution would kill their industry? Sure enough, the CD stores are all out of business, but the industry isn't as close to dying as they predicted. Interesting. Apparently, people are willing to buy digital copies of CDs after all.
Well, things are going to change in the future, like they always do, so I guess we'll see what happens as a result of all this digital distribution. Maybe everything will switch to a digital format, and then a deadly virus will cause a huge Internet crash, and lots of information will get lost, and people will switch back to non-digital formats. Who knows?