On a day like today, I am reminded how much I like clouds. Though it’s a little steamy here in SoCal, we’re also seeing a few drops of much-needed rain. It’s been so long, many of us had nearly forgotten what it sounds like, waking to a thunderstorm.
Clouds are really hot right now in the tech world. I don’t pretend to understand all ins and outs of cloud computing, but get that there’s tremendous potential for sharing and flexibility when it comes to content and information. I also get that there are more than a few red flags when it comes to “the cloud.”
Recently, a consortium lead by Sony announced a project called “Open Market.” Do not be fooled by the word “open”; this is a DRM scheme, plain and simple. The plan is simple (and not that new). You buy content, and then you get to access said content on a series of devices registered to your “domain.” In theory, this means, all house laptops, desktops, cell phones, devices-to-be-named-later. There is some sharing and the concept of interoperability.
Notably absent, of course, from this “thousands of retailers” concept is Apple. This scheme works, in theory, on every device but the iPod. Yeah, once again, that, what is it?, 80% market share means nothing to media purveyors. They will defeat the Apple marketplace or die trying.
I am not so bothered by the lack of iPod connectivity as I am by the realization that I don’t own my content. As a Kindle owner, I’ve come to grasp that my purchases that I don’t truly possess my books, not in the way I possess the physical editions. I can, apparently, download my purchased books to my desktop, though I haven’t tried to do that yet.
(Okay, just tried, now I have to figure out how to open an “azw” file, which apparently requires Mobipocket, and so on)
Likewise, with this Open Market plan, I feel like the content I’m purchasing won’t belong to me, not in a meaningful way. Again, I’m not an expert on this stuff, but it seems that to offer the kind of device independence being suggested, the studios will have to keep the content in the cloud. I like to think I’d get to download and save a copy in a format that can be easily accessed should I need it in the future.
But I worry. I worry. You know how these things work. Of course the system won’t work on every device. There will be compatibility issues because there are always compatibility issues. I am foreseeing a mess of firmware and software and whateverware upgrades and patches and fixes to maintain my connection with this service. Yay! More work for me.
I have a natural aversion to proprietary formats. I have a natural aversion to schemes that aim to make my life easier, since they rarely do. And I have a natural aversion to DRM because it doesn’t seem to stop pirates, only legitimate consumers.
Don’t get me wrong. I still love clouds. I just worry when they disappear when the winds change.