Ad Age‘s Simon Dumenco thinks the way to salvation for modern media is through the free (or very, very cheap) laptop “netbook.”
He offers a bit of background, going back to that fateful year of 1984: “By now you’re probably wondering how any of this could possibly make me optimistic in any way. Well, I’ll explain, but first I want to quote the rest of the ‘Information wants to be free’ manifesto, which was famously delivered just a little over 25 years ago at the first Hackers’ Conference by Stewart Brand, the pioneering publisher of the legendary Whole Earth Catalog. After he uttered those five words, he continued, ‘Information also wants to be expensive. Information wants to be free because it has become so cheap to distribute, copy and recombine — too cheap to meter. It wants to be expensive because it can be immeasurably valuable to the recipient. That tension will not go away. It leads to endless, wrenching debate about price, copyright, intellectual property, the moral rightness of casual distribution, because each round of new devices makes the tension worse, not better.’ ”
He goes on to envision a subscription system – sign on to a Kindle-type thing, or maybe iTunes for access to whatever content you want, using cloud software instead of the once-dominant Windows-based desktop/laptop software. Sales at Microsoft are soft, and computer makers including Dell are suffering as well. What’s selling? The cheapo netbooks. Acer test-marketed a $100 book that required a year’s subscription to AT&T broadband.