(image courtesy of apple.com)
Yesterday Businessweek reported that Sony plans to open an iTunes-style store, showcasing their eBook, music and movie libraries. While certainly newsworthy all by itself, this news marks something bigger that is changing in technology today; hardware doesn’t matter anymore.
I’m not starting a funeral dirge for processors or anything like that, but the era of marketing around hardware is dying. What consumers want now is content. I’ve said this before, and Gear Diary has even featured experts who have said this as well. And now Sony is aggregating the massive amount of content they own in one place where consumers can access it all, which in my opinion means this movement has hit a tipping point. It isn’t about specs, it is about what product offers you the best gateway.
Sony Readers were the first eBook readers from a major company that really made headway in the market (yes, I know there were a few niche products before that, but Sony was the first big dog in the game). From the start Sony was selling eBooks on their website, but there wasn’t a real marketing push behind it. I remember playing with a Sony Reader at my local Borders, and there was little information on the content available for it, but a big showcase of the device itself. Now look at Sony’s television commercials as of late. The entire discussion is about how many books you can find and read, and the device itself is barely shown!
Sony’s competitors in the ebook space have from the start believed in content over hardware. Amazon wants to sell books. If they sell Kindles along the way, that’s great, but the real point is to move their content and tie consumers to their content. Barnes and Noble almost laughed at a reporter when they were asked about selling competitor’s books; the entire point of the nook is not to make B&N a hardware company, but to make them a relevant bookstore in a digital world. When your entire library is Amazon or Barnes and Noble eBooks, are you going to move platforms for slightly better hardware, but a worse eBook library? Sony no doubt is worried about this, and for good reason; ask someone to describe a Sony Reader, and they may be able to give you a vague description of one they saw at Target or Borders. Ask someone to describe a Kindle, or a nook, and they’re likely to tell you about access to books, not the grayscale of the e-ink screen.
And just to show this is not only about eBooks, think about Apple’s iPhone/iPod touch commercials. Apple isn’t talking about capacitative touch screens or 3G speeds anymore; now they are talking about apps, apps, and more apps. Compare:
What’s the difference? The app store exploded, and suddenly everyone has pages of them on their iPhones. It becomes a gateway to more than just youtube and the internet; suddenly the iPhone is a gateway to all kinds of content. And that content access has become the whole point of owning any device, whether it is a smartphone, an eBook reader, a video player, etc. When content stopped being something we had to hunt for, and became something intrinsically entwined with devices, it became more powerful than the devices will ever be; Sony showcasing their immense media portfolio, instead of hiding it behind Vaios, Readers, PS3s and Walkmen, is just more proof.
Now I want to hear your thoughts! Do you agree with me? Are there items on your tech wishlist for their content, or for their hardware? And are you using future content availability as a consideration in gift buying decisions for family and friends? Or am I totally off base and crazy? Sound off below and share your view!