RSS is the new BetaMax, says Apple sales numbers

betamax1The data from the Apple earnings call illustrates the difficult time RSS will have staving off micromessaging. Most telling was the turf the iPhone took out of iPod sales. Every one of those iPhone sales, no matter whether they are the new 3GS or the $100 3G model, reduce the reasons for syncing to a Windows or Mac box in order to bring down podcasts.

As realtime accelerates, streaming text and media services are much easier to leverage than slower ones such as RSS readers. Given the Flash blockade on the iPhone and Google’s YouTube support for H.264, those services that make it easier to click directly on breaking news are rising in usage. At its simplest level, if I see a Flash icon, I avoid that service more and more. If I see a YouTube icon, I come back more and more, whether it’s on the iPhone or not.

YouTube’s branding puts a lot of wood behind the realtime arrow as a result. iPhone access via iTunes is gated at 10MB on 3G, so ironically it underlines the streaming angle if you doubleclick the item again and the file begins streaming to you in realtime. Gradually users are being trained that if you want to hear something when you become aware of it, it better be hosted in MP3 or on YouTube. The iPod’s lack of a radio may not be the determinant in iPhone growth at its expense, but the outcome is still moving away from downloading and toward streaming.

What may be more fundamental even than speed is the two-way interactive nature of the realtime experience. FriendFeed conversations have a certain dynamism missing from Twitter calls and responses. While it may not be obvious today, when FriendFeed streams aggregate both Track and your Follow cloud, the resulting service can signal you when triggers are fired and you can respond accordingly. Streaming media has a similar capability, where your actions around the media can be transmitted back to the Follow/Track engine in realtime.

Those composite signals contain much more fidelity and metadata than previous elements of the stream, and like H.264 will create swarms around both content and production of the parent streams. In effect, the immediacy and feedback loops of these realtime streams will provide increased value that will accelerate the clients that enable them. Desktop systems that play along will achieve momentum as well. Flash will suffer, Silverlight will not. It’s the beginnings of a Betamax/VHS argument, and we know how that turned out.