Access or ownership: Which will be the default?

The ease of access and the desire to own appear to be on a collision course.

Open QuestionIn a recent article, The Atlantic takes a looks at the threads that connect Steve Case’s investments:

A luxury-home network. A car-sharing company. An explosive deal site. Maybe you see three random ideas. [Steve] Case and his team saw three bets that paid off thanks to a new Web economy that promotes power in numbers and access over ownership. [Emphasis added.]

From time to time at Radar we’ve been checking in on this “access vs. ownership” trend.

For example, Lisa Gansky, author of “The Mesh,” explained why businesses need to embrace sharing and open systems

Corey Pressman, founder of Exprima Media, discussed the role customization will play in an access-dominant media world:

… music access versus ownership is very compelling. I could see a possible near future in which “accessible music” (streaming unlimited cloud access) trumps “owned music” (purchased CDs or downloads). In this scenario, customization — creating customized playlists — is external to the media; customization is handled by the conduit, not the content.

More from Pressman here.

In “What if a book is just a URL?“, Radar contributor Jenn Webb pointed out ebook companies that ignore downloads and instead provide access to material.

And in an interview with Audrey Watters, education theorist George Siemens noted that in the education data/analytics world, “Data access and ownership are equally important issues: who should be able to see the analysis that schools perform on learners?”

Business, media, publishing, data, education — these are all areas where access vs. ownership has organically popped up in our coverage. And it’s easy to see how the same trend applies to the technical side: access requires storage and ubiquity, which generally leads to a cloud solution (and then you get into issues like public cloud vs private cloud, who’s responsible for uptime, what happens when there’s a breach, who actually owns that data, how do you maximize performance, and on and on …)

What’s your take? Will access become the default? Or is ownership a hardwired trait?

Please weigh in through the comments or join the conversation at Google+.

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  • Aaron

    The question of value is the first thing that comes to mind. To be successful, an “access” model must provide significantly more value than an “ownership” model with respect to price.

    For example, consider owning a book versus having access to a book. I’m willing to pay let’s say $10 to *buy* a book and *acquire ownership* of the physical object. To merely *access* the same book, I’m not actually willing to pay anything at all, save the time it takes to check it out from the library.

    In other words, merely providing access is not enough. The access must come with enough incentive to convince the consumer that the price is worth abdicating ownership. ie. No one is going to pay the same price for a URL as they would for a book.

    For example, look at Rhapsody or Spotify’s business models. For the price of a single CD, they provide access to millions of songs, along with social and other value-adds that make the services worth the price.

  • We need to start thinking about a more federated access model. Now, I know the concept of “storage federation” get some people really excited, but, what I am talking about here is a model focused not on private vs. public but a fabric that is intimately aware of the data content, its origin, as well as its access and retention policies in context of user’s current identity across all providers.