A lack of common ground among consumers, media companies and makers of consumer electronics (CE) products is holding back the growth of networked media, Rob Glaser, founder and chief executive officer of RealNetworks Inc., said Friday.
"We have a bit of a culture clash among the three constituencies that need to come together. There is only a little sliver of common ground," Glaser said in a speech during an "Industry Insider" session on the second day of the Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas.
Consumers must stop downloading pirated copies of music and movies, media companies have to provide comprehensive, flexible online entertainment services at decent prices, and CE makers have to create products that support fair use and easy access to secure content, Glaser said.
DVD (Digital Versatile Disc) is a good example where consumers, content providers and CE manufacturers aligned, according to Glaser. Consumers have embraced the technology, there is respect for copyrights and hardware is offered at a good price, he said.
"Everybody realizes that piracy won't work," Glaser said in an interview after his presentation. Consumers should eschew piracy and "respectfully support" commercial models for media distribution.
This won't happen overnight, Glaser acknowledged.
"This year will be a good year for convergence, but I wouldn't think we will get to the DVD level of common ground just yet. I do feel good about it," Glaser said.
Some consumers in the audience agreed with Glaser's call to end piracy and reach common ground under the conditions he suggested for content providers and CE industry.
Ponce Hartfield, of Antioch, California, said he agrees with Glaser that online media should be a paid service.
"The key is to make the prices reasonable and (technology) easy to use. I remember Napster. It was easy to use and that is probably why a lot of people went to it. If prices are reasonable, maybe $5.95 a month for all the songs you want, that would be reasonable," Hartfield said.
Andrew Petrenko, also from Antioch, is looking forward to a world in which music and video can easily be used on a myriad of devices. "I think it is what consumers are looking for. Downloading music to mobile phones, that would be great," he said.
Glaser sees online distribution as the next big thing for media. Driving it will be the growth of broadband Internet connections and home networks for linking together CE devices, Glaser said. RealNetworks, based in Seattle, sells server, client and digital rights management software for online media distribution.
Glaser has always been a vocal opponent of file-sharing software of the kind that has been used by millions to download free music, movies and software. Early on, he predicted the demise of Napster Inc., once a popular service for trading MP3 music files.
Other hurdles to a thriving networked media industry can be overcome with RealNetworks software, he said. For example, the company's Helix DRM software, announced earlier this week at CES, can be used to protect copyrights on digital media, he said.