Consumers bypass the PC for digital entertainment

19 Sep 2006|Leigh Marinner

As corporate PC sales have slowed over the past few years, companies have focused more on opportunities to sell to consumers. Witness HP’s refocus on the consumer market and digital photography and Microsoft’s efforts in entertainment digital rights management (DRM) and the new Zune media player. But the playing field is shifting and the established players are in danger of missing a big opportunity because they are tied to their existing way of doing business.

Consumers prefer to bypass the PC altogether whenever possible and convenient. They want to transfer photos directly from their digital cameras to their printer, or send a photo from their camera to a friend’s camera or MySpace site. Although they store music on their hard drive, they prefer to trade playlists directly between MP3 players. For Gen Y, their playlist, like their clothing, is an important way of reflecting their identity and they display playlists on their device, not the PC. Microsoft’s new Zune portable media player is beginning to take advantage of these insights by allowing consumers to download songs directly to the device using WiFi and to beam songs to friends.

Still, the major players are weighted down by their “concrete shoes” which tie them to their existing way of doing business. Instead of assuming consumers will regard the PC as their base for digital entertainment, why not build products for an environment where the PC isn’t central. For example storing photos on the web and sharing and accessing them through a portable device (which has the added advantage of protecting family photos from disk crashes). Or tagging songs from the radio to download directly to the MP3 player, as Sirius is doing. The company that offers an easy ecosystem for digital entertainment which doesn’t involve the PC could be the next iPod-like success story.

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