TECH TALK: Digital Gadgetry: Emerging Companies

Netflix, Shutterfly and Moxi Digital are representative of some of the new companies and services that are being launched to piggyback on the emerging world of digital gadgets and media.

Netflix is a DVD rental service with a difference. No late fees and a flat monthly subscription of USD 20. Here’s how it works: you create an account to their website, and select the movies you want to watch. They mail the DVDs – three at a time. After you are finished watching, you mail the DVDs back (postage is on them) and they send you the next three. Netflix has a subscriber base of 500,000 and growing. A mix of clicks, bricks and flicks!

Shutterfly is a web-based photo service that lets you print and share photos. Writes a visibly impressed Stewart Alsop in Fortune: “You can print your pictures in various sizes; edit your pictures by, say, removing red-eye or cropping nasty relatives; and share digital photo albums by sending people e-mail links. But then, sometime before Christmas, Shutterfly added a new application to create photo greeting cards. That in itself isn’t big news, since all the services let you create a greeting card with your own photos. But it is a lot of fun.So where’s the magic? Shutterfly designed its application so that you can see a pair of hands holding the card you designed. It’s a nifty way to envision what your card will actually look like in the hands of your correspondent. True, this feature is no big deal technically, but it’s a brilliant piece of customer service: As a consumer, you can now be absolutely sure that your card is going to look the way you want it toMy dollars will not be going to Kodak or to my local drugstore for traditional photo processing. After 30 years of taking pictures, I am beginning to handle my photography in a completely different way. That seems significant.”

Moxi Digital is creating the ultimate media server. Writes Lisa Bransten in the Wall Street Journal: “Moxi’s souped-up boxes combine the functionality of cable or satellite receivers with DVD players and the personal video recorders. The VCR-sized box hooks up to one television and can send data such as audio and video to electronics around consumers’ homes that are hooked up to smaller auxiliary devices. With the new offering, [Moxi] hopes to address the problem of too many home devices and remote controls that can’t communicate with each other.

The incompatibility makes it difficult to do things like download a music file from the Internet and play it on the stereo, or start watching a program in the living room, pause it and then watch the rest in bed. The Moxi boxes are designed to do both those tricks.Moxi will give away the hardware design and license the operators its software to make and run them.”

There are opportunities aplenty as change rumbles through. Writing in his weblog, John Robb gives a glimpse into tomorrow’s world, and some ideas on what’s needed:

In five years, you will likely have a Personal Storage Device with ~1 Terabyte (1000 GB) of storage space. It will connect to sub-$300 video/still cameras, play-back audio and video to any monitor, and connect P2P with other PSD users via high-speed wireless. I will be able to download an entire library of music and movies to you in 20-30 minutes during a face to face meeting. Further, I will be able to manage this library of content via my PC. This replaces CD and DVD technology with ferocity.

An interesting aspect of this is that much of the new content created will need to be published. The volume of content created will require that personal publishers provide end-users an easy to use interface. There are two approaches on how to do this: server based systems and desktop systems. The server side systems could never keep up with the volume of storage necessary to share this content. Desktop systems in contrast, will allow people to share the pointers to personal content within an easy to use Weblog interface on a central server, and enable the actual transmission of the content via P2P. Further, permission-enabled desktop hosted Web Services will make it possible for me to search a database of content, select the items I want to utilize, and then easily download what is available from the closest source.

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.