Freed from the device vice

One of the great things about the digital world we now live in is that there are literally thousands of devices out there for us to choose from. Whether it be for entertainment (playing games through to consuming media), communicating or organizing (or any blend of the above) there is a plethora of devices out there that can help. But one of the major drawbacks of the digital digital world we now live in is that there are literally thousands of devices out there for us to choose from.

No, you haven’t just entered groundhog day…the availability of a wide range of devices is great. It means we, as consumers, can select the one we feel is right for us. We don’t have to be either a Windows loyalist or otherwise an Apple advocate. There are so many makers of both hardware and software that we can mix and match to our hearts content. This is true for phones, tablets, TVs, games consoles, I could go on and on. But the problem with the variety is that often when we buy in to a specific model we then exclude ourselves from some of the benefits of the makers we didn’t choose.

Let me give you an example. The world and its oyster have recently gone crazy for the online broadcast sensation Breaking Bad, which is now exclusively available on Netflix. I, on the other hand, am a subscriber of Love Film. Both Love Film and Netflix provide largely the same service, except that I would now have to subscribe to Netflix just to get Breaking Bad…and I want to get Breaking Bad because everyone is talking about it and saying it is the greatest TV show ever made (caveat: I haven’t seen it so it may not be the greatest TV show ever made!). My choice to consume on demand content through Love Film excludes me from accessing Breaking Bad unless I subscribe to Netflix. I am reluctant to do this as I would either have to switch or subscribe to both and I happen to think that Love Film through my Smart TV is a good service.

It is therefore great news that Sony have announced this week that they are soon to make some of their Playstation console games available to play without having the console (i.e. through a smart TV, other conosle, mobile device) by streaming it over the web. Why is the significant? Because it is the first time a major console company has decided to decouple their entertainment product from their hardware. Previously, if you wanted to play Playstation games you would have to own a Playstation, and games producers would have to produce versions of games for each console.

The line is now drawn in the sand. Is this the first step towards content, applications and devices being completely agnostic? I would like to think so, although I am under no illusions that there is a long way to go before we get to that point. But the reality is that users want to be able to consume everything but on their own terms. I am an iPhone user and I would like to be able to access the same functionality as people on other devices but with the interface of the Apple device. Similarly, I would like to be able to play games from various consoles without having to have a living room full of different pieces of hardware. The age when you have to choose a piece of hardware and live with the limitations that imposes (or accept that you will also have to spend more to get other devices as well) is coming to an end. Companies are beginning to realize that how a user consumes content (channel) and the actual content they are consuming does not need to be linked. A user should have the choice about how they consume content and not be limited. Companies in turn need to realize that their content should be available to the widest group of people possible if they wish to capitalize and the best way to do that is to make it device agnostic…even if they have a shiny new device that they want you to own as well.

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