In 1999, when Doug Camplejohn and I created Myplay, digital media consumption was just emerging. Sure, people had lots of MP3s, but there was little video online, certainly no eBooks to speak of, and the idea of the “cloud” was, well, still in the clouds.
One of the great benefits of attending the TED conference is the TED book club. Throughout the year, Chris Andersen and his team pick out 10 – 12 inspiring, timely, and exceptional books. Each TED attendee receives a package or two throughout the year filled with these hardcover gems. Given that many of us now have Kindles and iPads, very few of us want to receive a package of heavy books anymore. Last week TED recognized this and offered to make future books available directly to our Kindles. To enroll in the program, you had to submit the hardware serial number of the Kindle. Presumably, one day I will turn on my Kindle and find some new TED books to read. This got me thinking how broken this process actually is.
We now live in a world where we have multiple devices on which we want to consume various forms of media: TVs, desktop PCs, laptops, smartphones, tablets, eBook readers, and more coming. Anyone who wants to distribute media to us has a hard time providing it to us in a way that lets us, the consumer, choose how, where and when we want to consume it. TED has to send my eBooks to my Kindle? But suppose that is not where I want to read them? (Granted the Kindle software app is suppose to let me read my Kindle books on any device they support. But how does one send eBooks to someone’s Kindle app? And why should Amazon stand between someone sending me a document in the ePub format?)
We need a locker. We need an open, authenticated location in the cloud where we can store, access, receive, organize, and share our digital media. Media is too fragmented online. Email, Flickr and Facebook serve this purpose for pictures. My local hard drive is where I store my music (and I hack together solutions to get that music streamed to me wherever I am). My video is stored mostly locally, except for the few clips I have put up on YouTube. And my eBooks? Well, they right now seem somehow buried into my iPad or in Amazon’s cloud. It’s too messy.
Various companies, after Myplay, have tried to deliver on this promise but none have caught on. I think Google might be the best company to deliver this service. They have the added benefit, at least for now, of not being a retailer of media. They would be ideal to extend Gmail to allow all documents to move in and out of their cloud. Let me designate access rules, enable sharing onto social nets, authenticate all my devices, build fast access apps for all platforms, and away we go. Digital media retailers could build on top of an access API that lets me receive my media in my locker instead of downloaded to my local device.
Yes, some content owners hate this idea because they instead want to charge me each time I access their content (think about how many times you pay, one way or another, to see a movie). But now, more than ever, we need a digital locker in the cloud.