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DRM Transcoding and the Lesson of Text Messaging

Ages ago I drafted a paper on DRM transcoding with the help of some of Motorola’s top experts on the subject. The basic premise of the paper is that transcoding is critical to breaking down the barriers that prevent consumers from moving content across devices and networks. Voila: seamless mobility.

moto-texting.jpgOf course, DRM barriers have been erected for a reason, namely profit protection. But Motorola’s Dragan Boscovic listed a great counterexample to the trend of increasing content lock-down: text messaging. While wireless carriers initially confined text messaging to their own networks, they finally decided it was better to advance the user experience than to try to hold on to customers with an increasingly undifferentiated application.

Today, Om Malik and Andy Abramson (and Paul Ruppert and to some extent Mark Evans) are also discussing text messaging, and specifically the joy of SMS interoperability. My hope is that operators (broadband and wireless alike) will take the SMS example and apply it elsewhere. As video telephony grows, will operators concede to let us access the service on any capable device and any network? What about video purchased and stored in the home? Will operators (and hardware manufacturers and content providers in this case) allow us to move it around on something other than an iPod?

It seems there is a natural evolution. First a new content or communication service must go from novelty to standard feature. Then consumers can be given the freedom to access it anywhere. As long as content can be reliably protected (a subject for another post), that’s certainly the way the development path should evolve.

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