During a recent interview with News.com's Greg Sandoval, Mark Cuban (who, amongst other endeavours, owns the Dallas Mavericks) sees brown trucks as a better way of delivering rich (high def-like) content to end users than the Net. Said Cuban in the interview:
The reality is that it's cheaper and faster to send (hard drives with terabytes of) content overnight via UPS than it is to download it over the Net. Brown is faster than the Net.
So the smart company will send you hard drives full of content that you will pick and choose from. If it were up to me, DirecTV and the Dish Network would merge. They would buy Netflix and Hollywood Video, and then offer us 10-teraybyte hard drives full of all the content we could dream of that we can get for free or buy at a premium.
The hard drives would either show up at our door ala Netflix, be picked up at the store, ala Hollywood Video, or be pumped to a hard drive connected to our satellite connection (or cable connection) continuously. We then take those drives, plug them into the LCD TV and go movie-crazy.
I guess this all depends on the process of delivery in the context of time sensitivity. For example, today, if you use RSS to subscribe to podcasts (here's the RSS feed for the Dan and David Show), the content is definitely downloaded but it automagically shows up on your PC and/or in your MP3 player. The point is that you could be connected to the net over a slow modem and it might not matter because you're really not actively clicking on a link and saying "give it to me right now." Video could be delivered the same way.
The question, in my mind, is how important is instant gratification? Regardless of how rich the content is (let's say it is high def video), can we wait some amount of time for some portion of the content to cache locally and then begin playing it while the rest of the download is happening in the background (what many refer to as streaming). Or, must we have the entire thing, right now and will the infrastructure always be ill-equipped to do what YouTube does, only with far more bandwidth consuming resolution in each frame of video.
Personally speaking, if I can wait for "brown" to deliver the hard drive tomorrow, I'd be more than happy to pick some movies for download today knowing they'd be ready for playback tomorrow. It's typical timeshifting and, going back to the instant gratification question, I'm having a tough time imagining what can't be delivered in timeshifted fashion over the Net. Particularly since we will increasingly be looking to view or listen to that content on mobile devices (a more natural end-point of the Net that hard drives are difficult to attach to).
But Mark's a smart guy. Am I missing something here?