After buying a Kindle as a gift for a friend I started to think about how quickly this would make traditional books obsolete. Amazon sold more ebooks were sold than physical books last quarter. On top of that Borders filed bankruptcy last month.  At the same time, Best Buy admitted that they are rethinking their weekly sales and are instead going to move to an everyday low price method. And while this plays out, game consoles are headed towards the chopping block. Wait, really? Yes. Brick and mortar stores, physical books and gaming console are all on the short list right now. Their time is limited.

Many retails stores now have to deal with the new reality of everyone walking in with a mobile price comparison buddy and often not only are items cheaper online, but they come to your door without you lugging them. When Best Buy does a sale, people go in and get that single item. If they need an expensive HDMI cable they can order it online for $3 instead of $30 in the store. And except for certain categories of items (food and some clothing stores for example) this is the new reality for retailers. Just compare the cost difference between a physical store and a retail store and you’ll see the problem.

Of course, I don’t need to tell you about the death of books. You probably ready the paper on your phone/computer and have at least 3 devices to read books and media on.

And yes, gaming consoles. I know, it’s all the rage and Kinect is sick but look at what’s happening. Take an iPhone and give it HDMI out. OK, now give me a pair of bluetooth controllers with a built in gyroscope – game over. We can do this other ways too. Take a Windows Phone with an XNA/Xbox game, stream it using DLNA to a tv and again, hand me some fancy controller to play it with. Same goes for Android and the new Sony titles. Kinect is a bit of an outlier here but think about the huge chunk that mobile devices are poised to take from the gaming industry. And think of how nice it is to play at a friends house which now requires bringing your phone with you and not even the original disc. I remember the old days of lugging consoles to a friends house with all of the games. Of course, high end mobile games are maybe $10 (if that) while Xbox console games are $50-$60. Yes, it’s a better experience on an Xbox…for now. But a lot of casual gamers would be just as happy to play the same exact game on their phone as their tv and by adding real controllers, you actually can get a good experience here. In fact, one that’s good enough to make people think twice before dropping $300 on a console and $50 per title.

Anyway, we have some interesting times ahead of us. Just think of where things have gone and are headed. Landlines – gone. Faxes – gone. Ten years ago I had a pager and not a cell – true story. School books – gone. In car GPS units – gone. Point and shoot cameras – gone.  How many years can these things hold on for?

And this is just the beginning of the mobile revolution…

13 COMMENTS

  1. I’m hoping all my textbooks get eBook form going forward. As for gaming the only deterrents I see holding that up is game developers optimizing titles and the kinect helps Xbox get people to use their bodies instead of just hands.

  2. I get the physical books point, and I get the retail point (I’m on Amazon right now on the WP7), however the console section holds less water.

    The start of the current gaming generation (with the XBOX 360), brought a real, polished social network to console gaming, previously reserved for PC gamers. That was in 2005. Gaming and social networking has evolved to the umpteenth degree since then but so have capabilities of gaming consoles themselves. Netflix, Twitter, ESPN 3, Hulu, Facebook, Last.fm among other apps have invaded current gen consoles and users can be entertained for hours without having a game in the system. I’m a 360 gamer myself but I can honestly say I spend more time talking to my friends in parties than I do actually playing games (cross game party chat is a beautiful thing, Sony, do something about that). With all that being said, the console market still has room to grow as you’ve seen with the Kinect and Move systems. More apps will come, more innovation will arrive, Microsoft will finally pull the head from out of their asses and put IE9 on the 360. We have haven’t hit critical mass with the current gen systems yet, for God sakes, the Wii is still in standard definition.

    Phone gaming will continue to mature into something more tangible for hardcore gamers soon enough. Xbox Live will soon use multiplayer, Xperia Play is right around the corner and Apple certainly hasn’t died. All that being said, for right now, phone games are still better suited for casual gamers/ a nice, interactive distraction while commuting or supposedly working.

  3. Game consoles? You’re being foolish… and you’re giving the “gaming capabilities” of crap like the iTurd way too much credit.

  4. @Sean: assuming soem real CPUs are coming out over the next year – let’s say by the end of this year we see a dual core 1.75ghz+ chip. It If it’s WP7 it can run XNA – 90% of the same code as an xbox. It’s not that far off.

  5. @David K:

    With it running XNA, It wouldn’t be far off from running XBOX Live arcade games. Not the same as running games off a disc. In other words you’re more likely to see a spot on port of Castle Crashers before you’ll see Halo. Now that I think of it, something like that will happen real soon. When Sonic the Hedgehog 4, Episode 1 comes out for WP7, you’ll see something similar to the console version, because it’s an XBL title.

    Quick side note: The 360 has a 3.2 GHz Tri-core CPU. It’s going to take a couple of years before a glorified netbook cpu in a phone produces the same CPU cycles as current gen consoles….

  6. @The Fight: well ilomilo and earthworm Jim HD I presume are identical except for resizing assets…
    Agreed that the processors are still off and I know on phones they disable assets. But there’s also less CPU usage at WVGA than 1080p so you don’t need to quite hit those specs.
    Consoles have been mainstream. Take the Wii. If an iPad with tv out had a controller that was tilt sensitive, would that effectively end it?

  7. I see this coming around the corner but I don’t like it unless I can have full ownership of the game or book. I currently play my PS3 all the time. I buy games from Gamestop and not the PlayStation store because I can trade the game in when I’m finish. This is the biggest downfall for me with digital media. Once you buy it, it is yours so I can see physical games hanging around a little while but not forever, like I wish. I have “The Book of Basketball” on my Android and also a hard copy. I will eventually sell my hard copy version but the soft copy is with me forever. I very seldom read books more than twice and now I have something I would almost certain, never use again. I can’t even give it away. I guess this is the price to pay to take everything with you at once. Like DK’s analogy with the carrying a console, I bought the download version of the book because I wanted to take it with me and read whenever.

    I use to love going to the family photo album and seeing old pictures. It is not the same viewing the items via your PC, phone, or game console. The feelings people get from touching physical media like books, games, pictures, and even CD’s, will never be replaced. When was the last time you read a CD album cover of the artist, writers, and producers who contributed to that music. I’m sure it has been a while or never. If I wanted that information I can go to the internet which is not the same. (Remember the smell of the CD cover. Its almost like the smell of bubble gum on a baseball card but I’m sure that’s before most readers life time-line.

    All of this new technology is great and keeps the economy going but for some strange reason, this world changes and electricity is not a common necessity (like any movie the shows the world after the next big war, or alien invasion) most of our memories and records will be destroyed forever.

  8. @David K:

    To your point, I believe OMG and Twin Blades are virtually the same too.

    Wii vs. iPad may be a closer fight because of the native resolutions, sure. The iPad 2 will have an HDMI out option and has a gyro built in. I don’t know if that’s going to replace anyone’s Wii however. Sad, even a Wii supports SD cards…

    An iPad with a decent controller and HDMI-Out versus PS3/ 360 would be a tougher argument though (I guess that’s why you mentioned the Wii for your example).

    Will the iPad provide competition to console makers? Probably. Will it kill actually kill a console? Nope. Keep in mind, it’s still Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo that you would have to sink. Multi-faceted companies with Billions of cash on hand. I think they next big thing that the HD consoles will bring to living rooms is the ability to be a cable box/DVR…

    wait a minute: http://www.huliq.com/files/imagecache/article_main/news_article/images/nr_31276.jpg

  9. @RowdyC:
    You know, I didn’t even think about that, good point, that trade in concept goes away with Digital copies and DRM software.

    ***

    I do have a problem with what you said though about touching physical media. Sure sentimental value is something that’s determined by the person or people who actually value it but it’s contemporary. Before CD’s there were 8-tracks and vinyls. As time marches on and the cloud is used more for capturing memories (and if Facebook continues to expand), the mindset of today’s techie consumer will be similar to that of tomorrow’s casual user. Private Flickr albums will contain all old family photos soon and the face recognition software will lend its information to online servers which will ultimately let you know what each person in the picture doing on facebook and twitter. Times change.

  10. lol.. iTurd. Compare the games on the ‘iTurd’ to other phones. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

    David, you forgot OnLive. It’s awesome.

  11. SLR cameras are far from gone. When it comes to a light source one needs a large processor surface to capture light. Ok, you are partially correct but this is an example of the flight from quality. From mpeg3 to small video screens. Stereo and video quality are no longer king.

    The large brick and mortar stores can’t hold up to the likes of Amazon and others but I think there is a new opening for mom and pop stores. The small book stores succumbed to the arrival of Barnes and Noble and Borders. With them slowly going the way of the dinosaur I think the very small corner bookstore can make a comeback. The number of people buying a physical book may not sustain a large chain. Especially when we turn to online stores even for the physical item. However we still are social beings. We like to get out and mingle and even enjoy walking in a store scanning the stack of books.

  12. @larry:

    SLR’s aren’t gone but Reputable camera companies have certainly made DSLR’s and P&S’s more user friendly since 2008. True depth of field on a camera phone is something that will probably never happen, so Reflex cameras aren’t going anywhere but, Point & Shoots are definitely in trouble, especially credit card sized ones and those cheap (>$129) cameras that take 2 AA batteries.

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