Working For You – Not

I’m not in Las Vegas for the National Association of Broadcasters convention. I wish I was.

It’s a hardware, not content, affair. I was there a few years ago, demonstrating products on behalf of a weather equipment vendor. This broadcasters convention attracts a lot more production companies than TV stations.

Announced at NAB and most interesting to me, without really knowing everything that’s there, are new software suites from Adobe and Microsoft. These are made for posting richly interactive multimedia content on the web. This software facilitates an experience more than a few steps beyond just watching a video on YouTube in a small window.

What concerns me is the deep insertion of DRM, or digital rights management into the output of these products. Producers want the ability to make sure you watch the commercials if you watch their content. Certainly they’re entitled to make money to pay for their troubles.

The problem is, so far DRM has been an invasive add-on. It adds another layer of complexity to the viewing experience. It is software designed for the customer, but not the end user… or at least it has been until now.

I worry because Microsoft’s Silverlight platform requires people watching the content to first download a new plug-in (as you do for Flash, Real, PDF files, etc.). When Microsoft asks me to install free software, I instinctively count my fingers and lock the silverware.

A perfect example of DRM gone wrong shows up in the Sony-BMG DRM debacle. Sony’s audio CDs installed secret software on computers to protect Sony. Unfortunately, the software wreaked havoc with some PCs.

There are rumors Sony’s at it again with DVDs that won’t play in some (even Sony’s own) DVD players.

Maybe, in these rapidly changing days, there’s a better way to include commercial content? Maybe the ‘roadblock commercial’ we’ve accepted for over 50 years needs to change?

In the meantime, my opinion is, Adobe and Microsoft are not working for you.

3 thoughts on “Working For You – Not”

  1. Geoff – not to be too critical, because you are making valid points, but tying together the Sony DRM issue that is resurfacing, with the new Adobe creative suite, and the Microsoft Silverlight issue confused even me, and I work in the industry.

    That being said, I do think DRM is another one of those issues that will help give rise to more “open source” applications, as DRM is becoming more invasive and annoying.

  2. My point was (and probably poorly stated) each of these DRM schemes inserts a choke point in your computer. Sometimes, they choke more than anyone anticipated. Obviously, Sony never thought they’d neuter people’s computers, but they did.

    More importantly, none of this is designed for the actual end customer – the viewer. We didn’t ask for this, nor would we if anyone cared to ask. And much of this will restrict ‘freedoms’ we now have.

  3. I agree – I think you said it best in an earlier post about companies like Microsoft wanting to control the delivery channel, regardless of how it affects the end user.

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