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Usability Issues Still Limit Digital Media Growth

IDC's annual survey of Nordic consumer interest in new technologies reveals that content providers are typically not very good at providing the new services and functionality that technological developments enable.

Several results from the latest IDC market survey suggest that consumers are interested in new functionalities, but are unable to find what they are looking for. The most evident examples relate to how they watch TV and listen to music while on the move.

Two-thirds of Nordic households have either a hard disk/DVD recorder or a media center PC. Nonetheless, very few people actually make use of the functions that are available. For instance, only 15 percent automate recording of weekly TV shows or series, while 70 percent are actually interested in using this feature.

This is apparently because the current products don't work properly -- either because the necessary electronic program guides (EPG) are not good enough or because the user interface isn't user friendly.

IDC believes that it seems that the manufacturers of standard products aren't interested in supporting users, while pay-TV providers lock their users to their specific channels.

Today, 40 percent use their mobile phone for listening to music. Less than half as many have even tried downloading music directly to the phone, while interest in doing so is significant. Again, according to IDC, content and service providers seem unwilling to really offer an appropriate product to fit their users need.

Most users are restricted to the music that their mobile operator provides and cannot simply access a independent music service provider. In addition, copy protection often makes it extremely cumbersome to transfer the music from a mobile phone to the PC -- so if users want to listen to the music on another device, they need to buy the same music once again.

I believe that while this insight includes a regional perspective -- reflecting the Nordic market -- it is indicative of the challenges that will ultimately be experienced in all less developed markets, such as North America. Once an offering is created that positively stimulates broad-based demand, human factor issues will be exposed that inhibit mainstream user adoption.

It's all an integral part of the natural evolutionary process of digital media market development. While these issues may seem insurmountable, it helps to be informed -- knowing that these challenges have already been encountered and overcome in more advanced markets.

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