In his book Broadbandits, Om Malik was one of the leading documentarians of the broadband collapse and its wreckage. He's seen a bubble burst up close, and seems to perceive the echoes of that event in recent announcements of new video services. Here's an excerpt from Om's post today about Netflix launching streaming movies:
Today just might be the happiest day for all my friends who worked for networking and telecom companies at the turn of the century, but lost their gigs thanks to the greedy machinations of Broadbandits. They are soon going to find new employment, thanks to collective delusion of companies big and small. The new idea? They all want to offer consumers online video (including movies) to watch on their PCs - an unproven market - which is looking as crowded as midtown Manhattan during rush hour. Lets check off the players for now - Amazon, Movielink, CinemaNow, Apple and a bunch of others who I refuse to remember because a brain only has limited capacity for names that will soon be relegated to the dustbin of failed ideas.
That's a pretty critical assessment from a guy who just launched a blog dedicated to online video. Is this history repeating itself? Or is Netflix' offering underwhelming in its approach to the key issues in online video?
I think it's a little of the former and a lot of the latter. There's more than a touch of the bubbly to be found in the VC investments of the past several years, as demonstrated by the recent round of Web 2.0 failures. But Om's not alone in noting the limitations of video on the PC screen. I like to watch "The Office" on my PC (I'm often working when it first airs Thursday evening), but it's no good for family viewing. If my wife wants to watch it with me, we adjourn to the living room and pay another 99 cents to Comcast video on demand for the luxury of watching from a comfortable couch.
But online video and IPTV won't always be tethered to the monitor. And that's when things get really interesting.