Cheaper, Better, & Faster

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Cheaper, Better, & Faster

In this modern era, we often take for granted the chaotic natural market forces that hopefully bring us better quality products. Instead, we assume producers and manufacturers simply want to bring newer and better products to market in direct response to consumer demand. Alas, if it could only be that easy.

In truth, there is an eternal struggle between the free-marketers who genuinely want to make a cheaper, better, & faster mousetrap, and the monopolists who will try to buy up exclusive rights on all the traps, as well as the mice, so they can leverage increased profit from both.

In the DVD market, the monopolist force is chiefly U.S. intellectual property laws that grant very powerful and legally restrictive copyright control to the movie studios. To protect their property rights, studios have been successful in forcing DVD player manufacturers to adopt contrivances such as Macrovision and regional playback restrictions despite strong consumer objections to these technologies. Still other copyright holders are holding back some of their more popular titles in hope that the pay-per-view encrypted DIVX system might prove viable.

Supporting a more free-market approach, studio/publishers such as Warner Home Video, Simitar, and Madacy, are offering very large numbers of open-DVD releases, while lowering prices on some title to the point of being competitive with video rentals. Also, many independent DVD publishers are releasing their titles without using Macrovision or regional coding.

In the computer business, the battle is in regards to hardware compatibility issues, such as computers that use Intel's "Pentium-2 processor". In creating the P-2 processor, Intel also designed and patented the unique proprietary slot-style socket which the processor resides in. If you buy an Intel Pentium-2 equipped computer, your only option in upgrading your processor is to either buy another Intel processor, or a clone processor whose manufacturer pays royalties back to Intel for use of their patented slot-socket design. This effectively gives Intel control over the availability and price of clone processors to fit all P-2 equipped computers.

To answer this challenge, IBM, Cyrix, and AMD have continued to improve the industry standard "Socket-7" processor design. At all but the very high-end, these new socket-7 computers offer cheaper, better, & faster performance when compared to equivalent P-2 based systems. In contrast, Intel reportedly plans to phase out it's socket-7 processors in favor of the P-2 slot design.

Unfortunately, quality and value don't necessarily determine who wins and who loses in the home entertainment marketplace. If in doubt, just ask owners of the Betamax video or DAT audio cassette formats. For the best to win, consumers must look well beyond the immediate hype and ad campaigns when selecting their products.

For me, the choice is simple. The low manufacturing cost of DVD along with falling prices of players and computer hardware may finally drive the high priced / rental / fee-for-service mentality out of the home entertainment and communications industry once and for all. In it's place will be abundant high quality, low cost software, user friendly upgradable hardware, and flat-rate communications services that we can all own, enjoy, and pass onto our heirs. The only problem is finding enough shelf space for it all.