How Consumers Will Take Back the Internet in 2010
Carriers' Meat and Potatoes
Add to this the still booming popularity of the Apple (AAPL) iPhone and its application constellation and it becomes very clear that the wireless carriers are more comfortable providing data connectivity than trying to sell us the phone, the network and the software that runs on top of it. This was a regime that clearly didn't work, considering the difference in the wireless scene before and after the arrival of the iPhone.
At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Panasonic and LG unveiled television sets that come pre-loaded with Skype and can morph the sets into video conference units. Further, anyone with a Skype account can also turn their television into a regular telephone, a call and video recorder, and any other number of applications that ride on top of Skype.
And Skype itself, as a voice services provider, continues to grow by leaps and bounds. A growing number of customers are unplugging not only wire-line but even VoIP-based phones provided by cable and Internet companies. They're replacing them with Skype accounts that allow them to turn their computer into a sophisticated telephone system.
The Netflix Effect
In video, Clicker, Boxee, Hulu.com and other online video aggregation and management tools make it super simple to roll your own video entertainment channel. Meanwhile, cable giant Comcast (CMCSA) is not only offering physical digital video recorders, but also the capability for customers to watch video programming online in a browser-based setting, a move that is clearly a response to Netflix's rapidly growing streaming service.
Never before has it been so easy to stop paying for cable and still receive a plethora of excellent programming. You may miss Lost but you can replace with hundreds of other programs, interviews and fascinating video content.
All that's left is a lower-priced, all-you-want-to-watch video subscription package that content providers might try to strike with Apple or another company (although Netflix is halfway there with its $9 per month package that includes loads of streaming programs). This type of deal the cable companies might hate, but the content networks like News Corp (NWS) and Disney (DIS) might love, considering the brutal ongoing battles over carriage fees for many previously free cable stations.
Something For Everyone
None of this is news to the alpha geeks of the world. But what's changed is now these types of choices are easy enough for the average Technology Joes to access and use. The pricing pressure that these changes will unleash on the various parts of the content, wireless, cable, and Internet ecosystem will be enormous.
But there will be one clear winner -- and that will be you and me as its easier than ever to roll an Internet services package that precisely fits prescribed needs and at a lower price.