In North America, in the US in particular, there has been an ongoing debate over the importance of the ‘walled garden‘, a strategy of the carriers to maintain total control of their cellular networks (including the sale of all digital content). In the golden days of the ringtone fad, the walled gardens of the carriers were in full effect: if you bought an item for a particular phone, that item was not transferable to another device. If you wanted that item on another phone, or on another phone ON ANOTHER CARRIER, you had to repurchase. Even if the item you bought had transferable rights, it was nearly impossible to move a ringtone off a Verizon Samsung phone onto an AT&T Motorola phone. Thus, the carrier had you ‘walled’ into its ‘garden.
Today, that wall is not only crumbling, its gone in some regards as the carrier is concerned. You could purchase content for your Verizon Droid X, and get that same content on a new T-Mobile Android device. The key is that the content is now sold outside the carrier’s control.
And herein lies the rub: there is a new set of gardens that can be walled: the makers of the operating systems and/or the hardware now control the garden from which consumers can purchase and download content. Is it better now? Well, kind of… at least if you stay within a particular operating system, in theory you can maintain control of your licensed content beyond the carrier.
But, if you want to migrate away from your operating system you need to leave all that content behind and repurchase it for your new device with new operating system.
One good reason content is king!
Now, could this change? Yes, if the licensors of the content maintain records of all items purchased (they don’t need to right now) and the carriers (working with the device and operating system manufacturers) provide the tools to make the content completely transferable… well, then the consumer has won, and won’t be repurchasing content over and over and over again.
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