Real Networks

Disintermediated. Again.

January 12, 2010: 10:36 AM ET

Electronic Arts provides fresh evidence of technology's ability to change everything--maybe.

Can Electronic Arts win at the game of (tech) life? Image: Electronic Arts.

Remember that awful, overused, ill understood word from the tech bubble? Disintermediation. It was what was going to happen to all "old" businesses, like retailers and newspapers and brokerage houses. The theory went that any company that wasn't serving its customers on the Internet would watch the Internet step between it and them. It was going to spell doom for all sorts of "brick-and-mortar" concerns, ink-stained publications and trusted but dated advisory firms.

The funny thing about disintermediation is that it didn't happen. Then it did. The old-line companies survived the tech bubble as they waved goodbye to Webvan and and and so on. Then, after most industries got back to normal the destruction continued. Online concerns really did inflict damage on the old guard, and the damage is visible today in publishing, music, retailing, television and financial services.

The funny thing is that even the disintermediators seem to have a hard time resisting the next wave. More

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    SAN DIEGO, Calif. - For years tech-savvy movie buffs had to rely on illegal software to copy DVDs onto computer hard drives. Now a new program from Real Networks (RNWK) aims to make it easy -- and legal -- for anyone to rip their movie collection onto PCs.

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