Future generations will look back on this era as the time when historic transformation of the media first began
"If I need your opinion, I'll give it to you," the legendary movie mogul Sam Goldwyn once boomed in a simple articulation of his autocratic genius.
What the late Tinseltown tycoon would think of the swath of new technologies and media business models currently exploding on the silver screen of innovation is anyone's guess. But there is no doubt this canny icon of the movie business would not only have an opinion but his own strategy to ensure he did not have merely a bit-part - or be written out of the script - by stubbornly repeating the lines of a bygone era.
The next transformation of the media has already started and will be widely recognized as truly historic before we are finished with it. Today, it is the best evolving case study of what happens to an industry when technical innovation and generational change combine to become an unstoppable social and business force.
If you work in an industry that has experienced such dramatic dynamics, like those in financial services, then you'll be familiar with the oddly contradictory emotions of uncertainty and excitement that many media executives are experiencing right now.
For those of you whose industries have not really been affected beyond technology enablement for efficiency and improved business processes, then it should be as valuable as it is entertaining to follow what will be high drama; more dramatic even than TV high-flyer Eddie McGuire telling the world he wants to "bone" a breakfast show host.
This script for media revolution is much more than the excruciatingly dull debate about Australian government regulation of media. That's a sideshow; not even. This storyline stretches far beyond the parochial concerns of how media moguls, holed up in their Toorak and Double Bay bunkers, will plunder the open mines of digital gems.
And there is little more than a supporting role for the so-called "triple play" strategies of telecommunications companies, which are trying to keep customers with bundled combinations of voice-mobile-Internet offerings.
So, what is really going on, what or who will take the starring roles in next-gen media? It must be Google, right? Fantastically, nobody knows; especially those who say they do. There is no more exciting place to be in technology right now. The companies now claiming a stake in this game are little more than blindfolded players throwing darts at the board, hoping and dreaming they will spear the bulls-eye. Google darts are the closest, that's for sure.
Moderate winners will be the traditional tech companies. Increasing demands will be made for networking technologies, hardware and software for storage. So the likes of IBM, Cisco, Dell, HP - all the usual suspects, in fact - will make money if they are even half-smart. However, they will no longer be our economic icons as they have been since the 90s. For them, their role will be little more than pipes and infrastructure. Increasingly, no one much cares about them.
Microsoft is different. Of course. It has had its chips on pretty much every number on the roulette table for a long time. Also different, Apple has produced it own little miracle with the iPod - a classic transformational business model, not just a gadget. However, Microsoft's upcoming Zune strategy and hardware, plus handset-music plays from the likes of Nokia and Motorola, will surely squeeze Apple's pips in the next five years.
But this is commentary only about traditional tech companies. The most significant contributions are coming from the content kings and companies, such as Google, MySpace and YouTube, which were not even on the radar until very recently.
Beyond many of these new and largely unproven companies emerging, a number of social characteristics are the true force shaking and stirring today's media cocktail.
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