In his first public speech since stepping down as chief executive of RealNetworks in January, Rob Glaser addressed the Mobile Breakfast event at the Seattle Marriott this morning, talking about changes he sees over the next five to 10 years.
Glaser said the rise of “superphones,” mobile applications and the digitization of our lives (as described by John Battelle’s “database of intentions”) have created several business opportunities to pursue.
One is around the notion of “digital persistence,” the expectation that once you create something digital you expect it to be available everywhere. Another involves providing users with universal access to their digital content across different devices. The third is making it easy to search and discover content.
“There’s no question we’re getting to that phase where consumers are going to expect this stuff, ‘it just works everywhere,’ ” he said.
As an example, he mentioned an incident last year with his son, who was then 2 1/2 years old. They were in the bathroom watching “Sesame Street” on a TV that didn’t have a digital video recorder attached.
The son prefers the animated portions of the show over the live action segments, one of which came on while they were in the bathroom.
“My son looked at me and said, ‘Make it go back, go back.’ I explained to him this is regular television; regular televison doesn’t go back,” Glaser said.
“The kids that are born this millenium — they just assume all this stuff, that it’s a cloud of video, they can go back and get it.”
Still to be determined is whether the next evolution will come from vertical companies like Apple or a more open, horizontal industry approach. Glaser argued that the vertical approach will result in a “much lower pace of innovation.”
To avoid having carriers become commoditized into dumb pipes and handset manufacturers scrambling for the low end of the market “it’s incumbent for all of us to work together and reach across segments … otherwise vertical’s going to remain on the march.”
Despite Apple’s huge success, it’s still unclear which approach is going to dominate in the coming years.
“I dont think it’s inevitable which way its going to go — it’s still very much a jump ball,” he said.
“Whereas the PC went horizontal and the MP3 player went vertical, I think it’s an open question whether the industry pulls together and makes the horizontal experience as good,” he added later.