Despite what others seem to think I’ve always liked the idea behind cryptocurrencies. A decentralized method of transferring wealth between parties, free from the influence of outside parties, has an enormous amount of value as a service. Bitcoin was the first incarnation of this idea to actually work, creating the ideas that power the proof-of-work system and the decentralized nature that was critical to its success. However the Bitcoin community and I soon parted ways as my writings on its use as a speculative investment vehicle rubbed numerous people the wrong way. It seems that the tenancy to run against the groupthink runs all the way to the top of the Bitcoin community and may ultimately spell its demise.
Bitcoin, for those who haven’t been following it, has recently faced a dilemma. The payment network is currently limited by the size of each “block”, basically the size of the entry in the decentralized ledger, which puts an upper limit on the number of transactions that can be processed per second. The theoretical upper limit was approximately 7 per second however further development on the blockchain meant that the upper limit was less than half that. Whilst that still sounds like a lot of transactions (~600,000/day) it’s a far cry from what regular payment institutions do. This limitation needs to be addressed as the Bitcoin network already experiences severe delays in confirming transactions and it won’t get any better as time goes on.
Some of the core Bitcoin developers proposed an extension to the core Bitcoin framework called Bitcoin XT. The fork of the original client increased the block size to 8MB and proposed to double the size every 2 years up to 10 times, making the final block size somewhere around 8GB. This would’ve helped Bitcoin overcome some of the fundamental issues it is currently facing but it wasn’t met with universal approval. The developers decided to leave it up to the community to decide as the Bitcoin XT client was still compatible with the current network. The community would vote with its hashing power and the change could happen without much further interaction.
However the idea of a split between the core developers sent ripples through the community. This has since culminated in one of the lead developers leaving the project, declaring that it has failed.
His resignation sparked a quick downturn in the Bitcoin market, seeing the price shed about 20% of its price immediately. Whilst this isn’t the death knell of Bitcoin (since it soon regained some of the lost ground) it does show why the Bitcoin XT idea was so divisive. Bitcoin, whilst structured in a decentralised manner, has become anything but that with the development of large mining pools which control the lion’s share of the Bitcoin processing market. The resistance to change has largely come from them and those with a monetary interest in Bitcoin remaining the way it is: under their control. Whilst many will still uphold it as a currency of the people the unfortunate fact is that Bitcoin is far from that now, and is in need of change.
It is here where Bitcoin finds itself at a crossroads. There’s no doubt that it will soon run up hard against its own limitations and change will have to come eventually. The question is what kind of change and whether or not it will be to the benefit of all or just the few. The core tenants which first endeared me to cryptocurrencies still hold true within Bitcoin however its current implementation and those who control its ultimate destiny seem to be at odds with them. Suffice to say Bitcoin’s future is looking just as tumultuous as its past and that’s never been one of its admirable qualities.
The year is 1999 and my parents have informed me that I will no longer be “spending their money”. This is their no-so-subtle way of telling me that I need to get a job if I want to keep doing the things I’m doing, like upgrading my PC every 6 months. I’ve already heard horror stories of my mates working at McDonalds and other, typical first time job places so I’ve set my sights elsewhere. To my surprise the first Dick Smith Electronics store I put my resume in at calls me back right away. No less than a month (and a few questionable training videos later) I’m out on the sales floor, a place I’d come back to routinely for another 6 years.
So suffice to say that I have something of a soft spot for the electronics retailer, even long after it dropped the iconic branding and reputation for being the place to get electronic components and kits. Of course I had long knew about the troubles the company was facing, partly from online but also from their less-than-stellar own product brand. Things were looking up in recent times after they were bought out from Woolworths and then refloated on the ASX however it turns out that might have been the first turn in its current demise.
As it turns out the buyout by Anchorage Capital, a private equity firm, was a carefully constructed scheme to buy DSE for a song and then reap themselves a healthy profit. The whole blog is worth reading in its entirety however the pertinent details are thus. Anchorage “purchased” DSE for a total of $115 million however only $10 million of that was financed with actual cash. The rest was derived from writing down their stock holdings and then selling them off at fire sale prices. This generated them a huge operating cash flow which they then used to pay back the outstanding amounts to Woolworths. Then, prior to relisting DSE on the stock exchange, they used the previous write downs and projections from the clearance sales to forecast a believeable profit for the coming years. This is what allowed them to list DSE for some $525 million, all of which they were able to receive after selling all their shares in September 2014.
This, of course, didn’t leave the company in the greatest state something which was reflected in the share price which meandered around $2 until late last year. Then after their FY2014 earnings failed to meet expectations their share price began to tumble, losing almost 90% of its value. In a desperate attempt to stem the tide DSE then engaged in what many called a “suicidal” sale of their current inventory, hoping to win enough business during the christmas period in order to stay afloat. This, unfortunately, did not work and today they have requested that the ASX put a trading halt on their shares while they look to restructure their debt obligations.
Given this recent turmoil it’s going to be incredibly hard for DSE to find a willing debtor to pull them out of this grief. Previously DSE looked strong due to its lack of debt however the fire sales that Anchorage engaged in to pay back Woolworths left the company without the inventory it needed to continue business. This meant taking on debt in order to keep suppliers on the books, something which is fine if the sales are there to support it. However, as their fire sale over christmas has shown, they simply aren’t making the kinds of sales required to support that way of doing business and so we find ourselves in this current situation.
It’s a prime example of how corporate raiders can carve up a company for a large short term gain that cripples it in the long term. DSE always struggled against the bigger retail giants, especially when it branched out into their territory in early the early 2000s, but it was at least sustainable. Now it’s quite likely that DSE will end up in receivership, unable to finance its debt obligations leaving it incapable of continuing business. For a former employee it’s a sad thing to see happen and I sincerely hope I’m wrong about them being able to restructure their debt.
I have had the somewhat enviable position of being able to work from home for a decent part of the last couple years. During my various stints (which could be largely split into 2 major chunks) I’ve become familiar with the various trials and tribulations that come with more flexible working arrangements. For the most part I’m still very much in the positive camp however there were a few gotchas which I feel could catch many people out. Indeed it wasn’t until I stopped working from home that I realised some of the destructive habits that I had fallen into, many of which curtailed any benefits that could be derived.
My initial bout of working from home was on a very large government contract that was still in the tender stage. This meant that I was, for the most part, spending a lot of my time on the phone and email. Like any government contract things didn’t move quickly and I spent the better part of 3 months barely ever leaving the house. Now this isn’t really much of a problem for me, I do fine by myself, however what I had found was that I struggled to break myself away from the feeling of being “at work”.
Recent studies have shown that this is a common problem that many people face when working from home. For me it manifested as a relapse into depression, something that hadn’t happened to me in the better part of a decade. Indeed I only came to the conclusion that that was the cause after I had returned to a normal work schedule. During my second run of working from home however I found several things that helped stave off those potential problems, most of which seem rather obvious when you think about it.
The first and foremost was getting out of the house. Whilst I’m fine with social isolation what really put a toll on me was the lack of time spent anywhere else but home. Whilst this is fine for a week or so over time you begin to associate your environment more with the activities you primarily do there. For me this meant feeling like I was “at work” whenever I was at home and thus I wasn’t able to fully disconnect myself in order to get a break. During my second work from home run however I spent far more time at client sites, meeting with colleagues and generally switching up my scenery far more often than I did in the past. Thus my home felt just like that, not my office where I felt obligated to work.
Probably the most important factor though was having work that I was engaged with. During my first spell I wasn’t fully engaged as the vast majority of my time was spent on long calls with lawyers or the prime contractor. These weren’t the most enthralling things and were often discussions around definitions, limitations, exclusions and all sorts of other words that will send you to sleep. By contrast during my second stint I was meeting with clients, designing solutions and working through the internal machinery of my company to make things happen. Being engaged is the key to being happy at any workplace however it becomes crucial when you’re in a flexible working arrangement.
Once I avoided those pitfalls though the benefits of working from home are numerous. I’m more easily able to manage my professional and personal schedules together, enabling me to dedicate more time to both without feeling exhausted. I spent far less time travelling as I’d be on the move during off-peak times rather than battling rush hour traffic each way. I was able to set up my work environment the way I wanted it to be, allowing me to be far more productive in the same amount of time. I could go on but there are so many more benefits, both tangible and intangible, that come from such flexible working arrangements.
Marketing your product to different demographics in order to increase your marketshare is a trick as old as business itself. You can see it with nearly any product that’s got a his and her version as quite often they’re pretty much identical, save for the price. Others are more subtle in their approach, sometimes selling products in weird sizes or even going as far as saying that one product is actually a completely different one (when it isn’t). The latter is what has landed Reckitt Benckiser, the maker of the analgesic Nurofen, in a lot of hot water with the ACCC.
The 4 above products, which are labelled in such a way to make you believe they’re designed to target specific types of pain, are in fact all identical to their generic pain reliever. Indeed even in this picture above (sourced directly from Nurofen’s site I might add) clearly shows that the active ingredients in all of these products is exactly the same. However the price on these products was significantly higher than their generic pain reliever which is what caught the ire of the ACCC. Nurofen has since lost their court battle with them and has been ordered to remove these products from shelves within 3 months, pay for the ACCC’s court fees and publish corrections in the media.
Whilst we’d all like to think that we’d be above such manipulation it appears that the vast majority of consumers would seek out treatment for specific types of pain rather than going for a generic pain reliever. This obviously presents an opportunity to artificially segment the market in order to generate more profit, something which nearly all major analgesic manufacturers currently do. This ruling then sets the precedent for ensuring that companies don’t engage in this kind of deception. However I hope the ACCC has their sights set on others as Reckitt Benckiser wasn’t the only one engaging in this practice.
Indeed Australia’s beloved brand Panadol also has various products that are also segmented along similar lines. Their Back and Neck pain tablets are identical to their standard tablets and the Osteo and Long Lasting Back and Neck pain ones are also identical in their formulation. Whilst I’m sure this ruling will likely prompt action from all analgesic manufacturers in Australia the ACCC can’t be discriminatory in whom it targets and they’ll need to pursue others who engage in such deceptive marketing strategies.
This ruling highlights the importance of being an informed consumer. Whilst there’s been great leaps made in recent times to make the information more accessible to your average buyer (unit pricing, for example) there’s still a major rift between them and the companies marketing to them. Rulings like this help to make sure that the companies are engaging honestly with us however we still need to be vigilant to ensure they don’t get away with any further tricks.
Starting a company in Australia, especially one in the high tech sector, is fraught with challenges that are simply not present in other regions around the world. There are numerous other factors which have limited the growth of our startup ecosystem, many of which are centred around getting new ideas funded. For many the biggest challenge comes when they want to grow their business beyond the bootstrap phase, where they look to venture capitalists to help with their expansion. Australia’s regulatory framework, coupled with our traditionally risk adverse investor network means that the large amounts of capital we do have (thanks to the superannuation scheme) are often locked away from startups. This, combined with the numerous other challenges Australian startups face, have seen many great business go overseas in their pursuit of success. Today however Malcolm Turnbull has announced numerous initiatives totalling over $1 billion in new funding to kick start Australia’s startup ecosystem.
At a purely financial level the changes that are being made to investing in startups in Australia is significant, putting it on par with other investment vehicles. For starters any early stage investment in a startup company (which seems to be broadly defined as a company making less than $200K/year, with less than $1 million in expenses) attracts a 20% offset against the investor’s taxable income. That’s essentially a one off negative gearing payment, reducing the risk of the investment by up to 10% or so (for the highest marginal rate). Additionally that investment, if held for for more than 3 years, is exempt from capital gains for 10 years. This means early stage investors who happen upon the sacred unicorn aren’t going to be burdened with a large tax bill when they sell their stake. It might not sound like much for regular investors but for angels looking to invest in Australia startups the proposition just became a whole lot more tenable.
In addition to this there are several more initiatives designed to allow startups to depreciate intangible assets (like acquired patents), recoup losses and a better insolvency framework so that entrepreneurs aren’t unduly affected by failed businesses. Whilst your’e able to depreciate intangible assets now the actual useful life of them might not be in line with the legally required framework. Under the new legislation startups can self assess the effective life of such assets, allowing them to recoup the losses more quickly.
Additionally, under previous legislation, losses like this that incurred more funding (and hence a change in ownership) would prevent the startup from offsetting those losses against future income due to the “same business test“. The new legislation changes this test to a “predominately similar business test” which means changes in ownership like that, which are somewhat common with startups, won’t see those losses negated.
Finally the reforms to the insolvency framework allow entrepreneurs to tackle the kinds of risky ideas that these companies are known for without the spectre of bankruptcy looming over them. The default bankruptcy period has been reduced to one year from three, allowing them to return to the startup community much faster. There’s also a new safe harbour provision which allows company directors (typically the founders) to avoid personal liability for an insolvent company if they appoint a restructuring advisor to help bring the company back into the black. This eliminates some of the potential risk that’s inherent in reducing the bankruptcy period (as, hopefully, less companies should go bankrupt) whilst also opening up a secondary industry to veteran entrepreneurs to help right the ship of a failing startup.
There’s also a myriad of new funding for a bunch of programs that are intended to spur on research, inspire students to pursue STEM careers and initiatives to attract and retain talent both here in Australia and overseas. All of these programs are necessary pipelines that will feed the Australian startup ecosystem with the talent it will need to grow and sustain itself long term and it’s great to see the Turnbull government recognizing this.
All told there are over 20 new initiatives that have been discussed each of which is designed to build up momentum for the Australian startup economy. Whilst I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that a lot of the ideas were lifted from a previous proposal from Labor it’s still great to see the Liberal party championing it. Hopefully this means that many of the initiatives will pass with both party’s support and soon we’ll start to see the benefits far in excess of the projected costs. Personally I hope this spurs on our superannuation industry to start looking at startup investing seriously as there’s vast amounts of capital, only a small fraction of which would be needed to see amazing returns, just waiting to be used. No matter what happens though the future is looking incredibly bright for startups in Australia and that makes this humble writer incredibly happy.
Striking out on your own is a risky proposition. Having an idea is one thing, we all have an idea we’re sure that would make us rich, but turning that idea into a reality is something that takes time, dedication and, above all resources. The problem that many face is that last item as without the lifeblood of any company, money, you’ll struggle to get the resources you require in order to bring your idea to fruition. Ask other entrepreneurs however and they’ll tell you quite a different story, about bootstrapping and minimum viable products and other jargon, but the fact of the matter is that access to money is the key determining factor in whether an entrepreneur succeeds or fails.
Whilst this might seem like an obvious point to make it belies a more troubling conundrum: that kind of opportunity, striking out on your own to create a sustainable business, is not available to everyone. For a great number of people leaving their current place of employment to pursue an idea is simply an untenable position as they don’t have the capital reserves or the connections to get said capital to work on that idea exclusively. Consequently this means that the idea that anyone can be an entrepreneur if they want to is unfortunately a flawed prospect, but there is a solution which has been proven to work in the past.
For five years, between 1974 and 1979, a small city in Canada called Manitoba conducted an experiment whereby those who weren’t earning a liveable wage were sent a cheque that brought them up to that level. Essentially that meant that everyone living in this town was guaranteed to make enough to keep a roof over their heads and feed their family regardless of any contributing factors. Similar programs had been run elsewhere in the past however Manitoba’s project, dubbed Mincome, was special in that it didn’t exclude anyone. Thus for the entire duration of the program poverty was eliminated however when it came to an end in 1979 the incoming government failed to release a report on the outcomes.
However we can infer from other data sources, like the census, about the effects that such a program had on the residents of Manitoba. As the article I linked to discusses in much greater detail the benefits were quite clear, including flow-on benefits like hospitalization rates falling. The key take away though was that, whilst many would say that a universal basic income would lead to people not wanting to work, the Mincome project did not show that at all. Indeed it’s my belief that if such a program was adopted at a national level you’d likely see a tremendous increase in the number of small business and startups that were created, spurring a new wave of innovation.
There are many capable people who’d love nothing more than to develop the ideas that they’re passionate about but the problem is current safety nets aren’t geared towards supporting them. Australian programs like NEIS provide only temporary aid and quite often not enough to cover all the costs that are incurred when trying to establish a business. Replacing that (and most other) welfare programs with a universal basic income would provide the safety net that many require to pursue these ideas allowing programs like NEIS to focus more on mentorship and guidance rather than financial assistance.
Of course whilst an universal basic income would provide the basis upon which many could build their futures it’s not the only thing that would be required to elevate everyone out of poverty. Still programs of this nature have proven to be effective in the past and have far less overheads than current welfare schemes do. Coupling this with other ideas like Labor’s Future Tech policy has the potential to spur a massive wave of innovation in Australia, making it far more attractive to pursue radical ideas here than overseas. At the very least it’s an idea worth trialling as I’m sure the benefits would far outweigh the small cost that it would incur.
Starting a company in Australia, especially one that’s in the high tech industry, is much harder than it is in many other places in the world. This used to be due to a lack of supporting infrastructure, what with Australia’s remoteness precluding the required investment, however in more recent times that barrier has begun to melt away. The problem many startups face in Australia is that acquiring funding is extremely problematic as Australia’s risk averse investing style has meant that our large capital reserves aren’t used to invest in such ventures. Previous governments haven’t done much to change this, preferring to support already established businesses, however in his recent budget response Bill Shorten showed vision that few of his contemporaries have in the form of the Labor’s future technology policy.
At the core of this policy is the Smart Investment Fund, a $500 million allocation that will be used in partnership with venture capital firms and banks to facilitate more investment in early stage startups. I have spoken previously about how something of this nature would be required in order to kick start a Silicon Valley equivalent here in Australia and the policy that Bill Shorten has proposed lines up with that idea perfectly. Whilst startup investment can never be made risk free making them more attractive, through direct government investment and the partial loan guarantee with banks, will ensure that more of Australia’s capital makes its way into new businesses rather than the traditional investment vehicles.
Of course providing funding for such ideas is only one piece of the puzzle as we’ll need to encourage students to pursue careers in those industries. To this end Labor as put forward a policy to provide numerous scholarships to students who complete degrees in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and then go on to become teachers in their fields. In addition to this Labor is proposing to forgive the HECS/HELP debts of almost 100,000 students studying in this field, something which could provide an incredible leg up for fresh graduates starting their career. Considering that 75% of the fastest growing new jobs are within these fields encouraging students to take up careers is an incredibly smart move and one that the current government should look at adopting.
You might be surprised to hear this but I’m on the fence about coding being added to the national curriculum, mostly because I’m not sure how it’d end up being implemented at the school level. Starting out in coding isn’t the most exciting of adventures and the rote learning approach which many schools use would, I feel, end up with them becoming bored and frustrated rather than energized and intrigued. Of course I’m not a teacher and I’m sure there are many who are more experienced in this field who could design programs that tackled this issue properly. In the end this is something that I’d have to see in action before I could form a solid opinion on it as whilst I’m all for kids being aware of how technology works I also know how quickly they can become bored with such things.
This is what the Australian public needs to see from a party in opposition: clear concise policies that show a valid course of action rather than mud slinging and point wining which have plagued Australian politics for the last 3 terms of government. Whilst these policies might not ever see the light of day it’s good to see that the Labor party is thinking along this direction and hopefully such policies will fuel their campaign come next election. I can only hope that the Liberals take note as whilst any incumbent would loathe to agree with their opposition it’s hard to deny just how solid some of these ideas are.
After many years and hundreds of thousands of illegitimate users being on their service Netflix has finally arrived in Australia, much to the delight of Australian’s everywhere. In the short time it’s been available Netflix has already managed to account for 15% of all of iiNet’s traffic a sure sign that many people have wanted their service for some time. However, as expected, the content catalogue is a small subset of what’s available overseas leading many to keep their VPNs and over circumventions in order to get access to the same content people overseas get. On the surface that would appear to be a big issue for Netflix, given the pressure they’ve been under in the past to shut down dirty VPN users, however the CEO of Netflix (Reed Hastings) has revealed that they’re a small issue and his focus is squarely on converting long term pirates to legitimate customers.
In the interview (which is well worth a read in its entirety) Hastings says that VPN users are “a small little asterisk compared to piracy”, and further goes on to say that they’re users who are willing to pay for content but can’t for some reason. The solution to that problem he says for Netflix to “get global” and remove the incentive to use a VPN with their service. Essentially this would boil down to making the whole catalogue available to all users of their service, regardless of their location around the world. Whilst this idea is highly commendable, and demonstrates Hasting’s understanding of how media consumption has changed in the digital age, it’s ultimately doomed to failure given the challenge that they’re up against.
Netflix’s main issue with their catalogue isn’t the ability to deliver it, that’s been a solved issue for them ever since they switched from mailing DVDs to streaming services, it’s always been securing the rights deals to distribute content in certain areas. This is why their current catalogue in Australia is so paltry when compared to the one in the USA as Netflix, lacking a presence in Australia for so long, has been usurped by other distribution partners like Fox. Indeed Netflix even sold the rights to distribution for their flagship series House of Cards to Fox (through Sony) for the first two seasons, although that seems to have been time limited to coincide with their Australian launch.
Therein lies the rub; Netflix’s catalogue can only grow as fast as it can secure rights to distribute content in the countries that it has a presence in. In order to make their catalogue truly global they’d have to secure rights for every show in every region, something I’m sure they’re attempting to do but will run up against the rights holder empires that have cemented themselves in an old-world business model. They could, in theory, make global licensing rights a condition of any show being on their service however most popular shows are either backed by big production houses with distribution rights already in place or the fee required to do so would be so high that Netflix would be unlikely to sign up for it.
Netflix does have the advantage of being the biggest single provider of content across the globe, giving them a little clout in negotiating these content deals, however they’re running up against an empire that’s been extremely resistant to change for the better part of 100 years. They’ve definitely been at the forefront of changing how consumers want their media delivered to them however the lumbering giants that give them the content are steadfast in defending their regionally based business models. I’d honestly love to be proved wrong on this (although I’d still hold onto my VPN for other reasons) but I honestly can’t see a global Netflix in our future.
For all of my working life I pined for the ability to do my work from wherever I choose. It wasn’t so much that I wanted to work in my trackies, only checking email whenever it suited, no more I wanted to avoid having to waste hours of my day travelling to and from the office when I could just as easily do the work remotely. Last year, when I permanently joined the company I had been contracting to the year previous, I was given such an opportunity and have spent probably about half the working year since at home. For me it’s been a wonderfully positive experience and, to humblebrag for a bit, my managers have been thoroughly impressed with my quality of work. Whilst I’ve always believed this would be the case I never had much hard evidence to back it up but new research in this field backs up my conclusions.
Researchers at the University of Illinois created a framework to analyse telecommuting employee’s performance. They then used this to gain insight into data taken from 323 employees and their corresponding supervisors. The results showed a very small, positive effect for the telecommuting workers showing that their performance was the same or slightly better than those who were working in the office. Perhaps most intriguingly they found that the biggest benefit was shown when employees didn’t have the best relationship with their superiors, indicating that granting flexible working arrangements could be seen as something of an olive branch to smooth over employee relations. However the most important takeaway from this is that no negative relationship between telecommuting and work performance was found, showing that employees working remotely can be just as effective as their in office counterparts.
As someone who’s spent a great deal of time working from various different places (not just at home) with other people in a similar situation I have to say that my experience matches up with research pretty well. I tend to be available for much longer periods of time, simply because it’s easier to, and it’s much easier to focus on a particular task for an extended period of time when the distractions of the office aren’t present. Sure after a while you might start to wonder if you’ll be able to handle human contact again (especially after weeks of conference calls) but it’s definitely something I think every employer should offer, if they have the capability to.
It also flies in the face of Marissa Mayer’s decision to outright ban all telecommuting in Yahoo last year, citing performance concerns. Whilst I don’t disagree with the idea that telecommuting isn’t for everyone (I know a few people who’d likely end up like this) removing it as an option is incredibly short sighted. Sure, there’s value to be had in face time, however if their performance won’t suffer offering them flexible working arrangements like telecommuting can generate an awful lot of goodwill with your employees. I know that I’m far more likely to stick around with my current company thanks to their stance on this, even if I probably won’t be able to take advantage of it fully for the next couple years.
Hopefully studies like this keep getting published as telecommuting is fast becoming something that shouldn’t have to be done by exception. Right now it might be something of a novelty but the technology has been there for years and it’s high time that more companies started to make better use of it. They might just find it easier to hold on to more employees if they did and, potentially, even attract better talent because of it. I know it will take time though as we’re still wrestling with the 40 hour work week, a hangover over 150 years ago, even though we’ve long since past the time where everyone is working factories.
One day though, one day.
I’m a big lover of Steam. Whilst it had a rather rocky start, something that was exacerbated by the fact that I was still on dial up, since then the platform has managed to make me part with many of my dollars and I have done so gladly. Sure part of this is due to me moving up in the world, no longer being a poor uni student whose only indulgence was his World of Warcraft subscription, however Steam providing titles at a very reasonable price has also led me to spend more than I would have otherwise. So when rumours start to spread that Steam might be bringing things like music, TV shows and movies to the platform you can imagine the excitement I have at that prospect.
There’s been talk of Steam expanding beyond it’s current games and software market for some time now, ever since Valve announced the Steam Music overlay at the beginning of this year. There’s also already a few movies on the platform, like Free to Play and Indie Game: The Movie, and whilst they’re specifically about games it’s not much of a stretch to think that they’d extend the platform further. The only precedent not set so far is for TV shows however it’s not much of a stretch to see the same system working for that kind of content. There’s still a few questions to be answered about the service (When will it debut? How will its costs compare to other services? ) however if Steam can do for what it did for games for movies, TV and music you can bet your bottom dollar that it will be an incredibly positive thing for consumers.
The reason, for me as an Australia at least, is that there’s really no other alternative available to us. I was excited when Dendy Direct was announced, mostly because I’m a fan of their cinemas, however their pricing is nothing short of insane with a single season of a show costing anywhere from $20 to $40. Other services available here are either similarly priced or simply don’t have the catalogue of shows that many of us want to watch. Even if the services available here do have the shows they’re either significantly delayed or released in such a way that’s incongruent to the way they were released overseas, like Netflix original series being released weekly instead of all in one hit.
There’s always the geo-unblocking tools to get us Netflix of course but that’s really only a stopgap to a better solution.
We’re getting closer to a proper solution though as there’s been at least one notable entrant into this field that’s not completely bullshit. AnimeLab, run by Madman (the Australian anime distributor), offers up complete anime series for any and all to watch for free, including ones that are only just being released in Japan. Whilst I’m sure the free ride won’t last forever it does show that there’s demand for such a service in Australia, even within the niche interest area that is anime. I’m hopeful that this will encourage other services to start considering branching out into Australia sooner rather than later as it honestly can’t come fast enough.