Access over Ownership

The question asked in the title may seem like a silly one, but it really is warranted some thought. Recently, Microsoft announced a slew of new restrictions for the upcoming Xbox One model that significantly changes the gaming landscape as well as the definition of ‘owning’ a product. Some of the new rules tied to the Xbox are;

  • Purchased games only work if your console has connected to the Internet within the past 24 hours.
  • You can’t trade in games to just any second-hand retailed; they have to be Microsoft approved.
  • You can’t lend games to friends. Or maybe you can but only once, no one really seems to know.

These restrictions seem ridiculous, but in the context of the rest of the market they unfortunately aren’t. The world seems to be moving from a model of owning something with the freedom to do what you want to it to a service you merely access. This restrictions of freedom of use for items you buy came into fashion through Apple and its’ iTunes store. Don’t believe me? Try and take a few songs you bought on iTunes and drag them over to your Android, Windows, or other device. With services like Netflix, Spotify and the rumored iRadio from Apple emerging onto the marketplace, you don’t actually own the content anymore. We just merely pay a recurring subscription model to access it. Even Adobe is getting into the act  by offering cloud based subscription access to their Creative Suite as opposed to buying and downloading the whole product. Again, access over ownership freedom.

The pressure to establish recurring revenue models is very prevalent in business today, and is something I’ve had to deal with in my startup. When it comes to the things you buy, I always feel that the user should have the freedom to do what they want with the content they purchase. Unfortunately this trend towards recurring subscriptions and heavily constrained content is quietly making this ideal a thing of the past at the consumers expense.