In my day, this was all Dot Coms

Written by Chris Caines

June 29, 2005 | 13:05

Tags: #future #opinion #technology #voip #wireless

As you’re probably aware, given the lack of scathing to-the-bone honest opinions in a column, I’ve not been about on the content front for several weeks. Hopefully, in the interim, the new site has been whetting your information inclination; however I am quite definitely back and with a vengeance.

Well, that’s not quite true. As some of you may be aware, I’m now a proud father and as such, my gritty, rage-fuelled personality has been calmed somewhat by the constant feeding, changing of nappies, screaming for no good reason and being woken up in the middle of the night. Obviously I wouldn’t change it for the world.

"Joe Public doesn’t care... as long as their CDs play in their CD players, what restrictions the big-bad want to put on them is irrelevant."

And what a world to grow up into. It’s only when you take time to step back from what’s going on around you do you see the bigger picture for what it is. Now I realise that what I have been brought up to understand as the way of the world is vastly different from those born 10 or fifteen years after me, and the way of the world will be even more different when my daughter reaches independence.

We’re living in a world where a telephone ring tone remixed with an old tune from the 80’s can be top of the music charts, followed closely by a soul singer who pens a chorus with Chip & Dale. Somewhere, someone is making a lot of money from that and yet everyone I know hates it. I have images of smug fat-cats, laughing at the idiocy of society as they absorb more money into their already overflowing coffers whilst citing "Accurate Market Research" as the reason people want to hear this claptrap. However, once you’ve finished watching Top of The Pops (for Pops read: Marketing Budgets) you can change channel to indulge in whatever perverse mix of I’m a Celebrity Housewife, Relocate my Daughter you feel like watching.

I believe that the reason people need to go on these shows is because they’re so busy sat inside watching these shows, they don’t get out in the garden to mow the lawn, or into the real world to meet a partner or ask their friends if something they want to buy suits them. Of course, you also have people who simply want to get their mugs on TV (invariably by getting their breasts/tackle out, swearing a lot or being ragingly camp.. any shows in particular spring to mind?) so they can present the next plethora of absurd reality shows themselves and make a little cash on the side. What a wonderful state of affairs.

Spin ahead 18 years, and I absolutely shudder to think what’s going to be the order of the day, at least in technological terms, for my daughter when she’s spending her hard earned Pounds (or maybe Euros) on things. Let’s have a think:

1. Buying CDs vs. Downloading

All we read in the tech news at the moment is how our ability to play music is being more and more restricted. Despite all our bleating, whatever the record companies want to do will happen, because we are in an unfortunate Catch-22 situation.

Let us say, for the sake of argument, I am only talking about those who legally buy music, such as myself. DRM stops many people from downloading music because the restrictions on how they can play their tracks are so great, therefore they buy CDs. Unfortunately, to get the price of CDs down to a more reasonable figure, and you would need to show your disgust by not buying CDs.

Won’t buy them, won’t download them. So, where do you get your music? Radio? No good, see the TOTP scenario above. So whichever way you go, the fact you want music means you’re doomed to partake in the lesser of two evils. Plus at the end of the day, Joe Public doesn’t care... as long as their CDs play in their CD players, what restrictions the big-bad want to put on them is irrelevant.

Whilst I don’t see the complete obliteration of physical media happening in the next 18 years, expect to see everything you own DRM enabled and control of your music firmly in the hands of the record companies, potentially charging you per listen as opposed to per album. This leads me nicely onto my next projection.


2. Rental vs. Ownership

It has long been an assumption that software companies would love to rent you their products rather than have you buy them, and many already do. It means a steady revenue stream for the business, coupled with complete control over the product (whilst in fairness, they offer you free upgrades to their latest version and hopefully decent support). We have yet to see this from Microsoft, but it won't be long and when they go, all will follow.

Much like MMO games, copying would be all but impossible as applications would require an ‘always on’ (or at least regularly calling home) Internet connection, meaning that any attempt to run a duplicate key or account would be noticed immediately. On the road? This won’t be a problem, as you’ll see below.

The music and film industry would also love this model, because the majority of music and films will be delivered on an on-demand pay-per-view basis to set-top boxes, PCs or Media Devices.

"Seeing as pretty much everything will be delivered over the Internet, we’re not going to avoid being taxed on it."

3. Anywhere Internet

You will be able to get high speed Internet access anywhere. Cities will have created massive wireless networks covering every part of the city and motorway networks. You will of course pay for the convenience, with many people forgoing broadband and simply using the public wireless covering their house so the transitions are seamless. Which is good because...

4. Death of PSTN

…every phone in the technologically advanced world will be VoIP enabled, meaning your phone will be usable everywhere with your number being permanent and portable to any device you care to run VoIP from. Unfortunately, the mobile operators will not have taken kindly to this, and where once we could enjoy free user to user calls, these will now be fully chargeable. However the likelihood is that they will be much cheaper than we pay now, except for the fact we will be paying…

5. Internet Tax

Seeing as pretty much everything will be delivered over the Internet, we’re not going to avoid being taxed on it. There will be no more pointless TV licence fee, telephone operators will be paying the government less on their falling profits and smokers will be all but non-existent, so national income needs to come from somewhere. You’re going to be taxed on probably both the purchase and ownership of computer equipment and on your Internet access as well. They’ll be getting their bit, don’t worry.

This is, of course, all a prediction from a jaded technophile who’s done little research (so you can’t accuse me of being ill-informed and get away with it) except his own experience and a penchant for thinking about the future. I’m sure it’s not all doom and gloom, given we have achieved so much more technologically in the last 18 years than we could have ever hoped for. I think it’s just going to be a shame that the next generation will have to listen to us oldies telling them things like:

"In my day, you could play the same CD in your Car AND your PC"
"We used to have aerials on the roof which picked up free TV"
"You could download as much as you liked and it cost the same"
"You used to have both a mobile and a home telephone"

However, I’m sure the classic all-time father story will still be as valid then as it is today… "A pint was only £2.80."

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