By Pete Mortensen
The entertainment industry’s continual inability to grapple with the realities of a world where legal and illegal digital downloads are a click away has reached an appalling new low. NBC filed a brief with the FCC that claims digital piracy not only hurts the entertainment industry, it HURTS AMERICAN GROWERS OF CORN.
“Because of our nation’s interlocking economy, two-thirds of the lost earnings and lost jobs are in industries other than motion picture production. For example, in the absence of movie piracy, video retailers would sell and rent more titles. Movie theatres would sell more tickets and popcorn. Corn growers would earn greater profits and buy more farm equipment.”
Ahem. No, I’m not making this up. I would dismiss it as pure marketing spin if it weren’t so outright insulting to the people who buy movies, music and TV content. As Art Brodsky, the writer who brought the absurd claim to the world’s attention notes, corn growers are doing reall, really well right now.
According to the June 20 Wall Street Journal, corn sold at $3.83 per bushel this morning, up from $2.08 a year ago. Corn futures are even higher — $4.03 for the December crop. And don’t worry about the popcorn guys. According to the Popcorn Board, Americans consume 17 billion quarts of popcorn each year. Of that total, 70 percent of popcorn is eaten at home, and the remaining 30 percent is divided up among all the other places – movie theatres and sports stadiums, among other venues.
Guess what you can do while watching tons of ill-gotten movies and TV shows at home? Eat a bunch of microwave popcorn. And that’s maybe the most shocking thing about this baldly facetious filing: The entertainment companies don’t actually have a natural ally in the snack-food industry. The snack makers don’t care where you got your entertainment – they just care that you want to munch their treats while you watch.
And here’s the thing: If the entertainment companies had spent a tenth as much time figuring out what people really need from their entertainment as these companies and associations have spent in demonizing the pirates and launching lawsuits against little kids, any one of them could be light years more successful in the digital era than they are now.
But don’t believe me if you don’t want to – I might just have it in for the corn industry.
By Pete Mortensen
If we had any lingering doubts about Palm’s inability to compete with Nokia, Motorola and Apple, look no further than the Foleo, the big-deal product launch the former PDA market-leader unveiled at today’s D — All Things Digital conference.
No, go ahead. Look at it in the picture above. Can’t pick it out? It’s the generic-looking laptop next to the Treo. Yes, Jeff Hawkins, the company founder who once discovered the market opportunity for digital organizers in the early 1990s, has discovered the market opportunity for the laptop computer — only 16 years after the first PowerBooks hit the market. And it’s almost as capable as those machines were themselves!
You see, the Foleo isn’t a full computer — it’s crippled hardware that relies on owning a Palm Treo to connect to the Internet. Hawkins apparently took far too literally people saying they wanted a larger keyboard and a bigger display for their Treos and concluded that he could make an accessory that did just that. And the Ta-Da! turns into a Ta-Dull, as a co-worker of mine says.
This product is dead out of the water. It is decidedly uncapable, and it can only reach the market of Treo owners who don’t already own laptops. No one wants another laptop-sized device to put in their bag. They might want a replacement for their current laptop, but they don’t want to do it by giving up so much storage or capability.
I’m almost foaming. It’s a sad, deeply wrong-headed idea that Hawkins claims took five years to come to market. In that same five years, Apple built its iPod empire and moved on to phones, RIM emerged as a serious contender, and Windows Mobile caught and passed the Palm OS. It’s just sad.