Holiday Techno Decisions

In the world of choices to be made by less-experienced members of geekdom, deciding where to buy the stuff we consume on our shiny, new tech devices is overwhelming. Some things play nicely with others—music purchased from virtually anywhere can (usually) be plugged into another player or storage device. Video, subscription services, and e-books, however, are loners in the digital-asset playground and only like to play on their own turf and on their own terms. To the veteran mobile-content consumer, these content and consumption barriers are initially a pain, but work-arounds and the partitioning of certain content types to certain providers and apps become part of the everyday use of the technology. To the newbie—you, yes, you—sitting there with your new device, hesitant to remove the screen protector since the case you got doesn’t fit your device and/or is the wrong color, the glow and allure of the sexy, new techno gadget in front of you is enticing. But after you charge the battery and finish the configuration and get to the meat and potatoes of the device, my guess is the app store is your next stop. Hopefully, the gift giver gave you a gift card to the app store of your choice so you can dive in head first.

A few things to remember for both publishers and consumers:

 1. Solo OS Stinks
Apps that play well on one and only one operating system are poor sports on the playground of techno content consumption. You will want to gobble up all the bits you can across multiple devices, whether right now or at some point in the future. Manufacturers that provide multiple devices across different areas of the spectrum and provide the same experience using similar operating systems hedge the bet for app developers who focus on one and only one operating system to support. The downside is that as many more people adopt single-use devices, like the Nooks and Kindles of the world, these devices currently cannot complete other core functions (easily and cost effectively), like email or phone calls. The user is then left with different operating systems on different devices:  smartphones, tablets, notebooks, desktops, and/or smart TVs. You will consume content on multiple devices in the future, and being tied to only one operating system for the apps you love will hurt when you change. Be prepared.

2.   Device-Specific Experience Is a Gamble
Think about this: Before we wanted to consume traditional print publications on our tablets and smartphones, publishers produced titles with region-specific variations for both newsstand and subscription delivery. The traditional printing process changed for the most part at the end, with different variations of a specific set of forms printed within the larger print run. The process was heavily automated, and the variables, while seemingly significant, were relatively controllable since the press, roll width, and bindery restrictions were fixed. Once online distribution and multiple electronic variations were dumped into the mix, the traditional publishing model went awry. If we can assume that the vast majority of advertising and editorial content in today’s modern publications are actually worthy of multimedia additions, then the burden to produce a consistent experience across multiple devices over multiple operating systems—given very different hardware functionality—is a tall order. That said, device-specific subscribers to e-versions of traditional print titles may or may not have the same experience on another device mostly because of the hardware and software limitations of any specific device. Ultimately, this complicates the field of content to be consumed on your spanking-new techno device. While it may not matter right now in 2011, it may be a different story as  displays and the user experience continue to evolve while the hardware that we use to consume content continues to grow.

At some point you will muster up enough courage to pull off the screen protector and dive into the techno goodness that is behind the new device in your hand or lap. Just remember, consume wisely, not only for your wallet, but because someday in the not-so-distant future, the single-function device will be replaced and the electronic library that you have created may not play well with the devices and operating systems of the future.

Author: John Carew


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