Sunday, June 6. 2010
Do you remember Mobile TV? In about 2007 it was going to rule the world by 2010. It didn't, of course - the form factor of a screen the size of a matchbox did for that, never mind the in-fighting among Mobile TV standards. The iPhone, with its 2x3 screen and Applegarchy approach to the delivery stack renewed hope, but its still not really there. Cometh the iPad and all were agog - Is it a table? Is it a Netbook? An e-reader even? Is it just a Fisher-Price iPhone?
No, its a TV - LonelySandwich!
And then it hits. The iPad is for the nightstand. And for the sofa, and for the places between where you stand in line and where you sit at your desk. That’s why every iPad poster and billboard features it on a lap or a knee. They’ve stopped short of showing it on a chest in bed, but that’s where mine gets its most use.
I just loved this bit of ergonomic analysis:
However, when the iPad came, I found myself watching TV shows more often on it than on my TV. My preferred experience is to obtain TV content on my Mac, use software like the brilliant Air Video to convert it on-the-fly and stream it to my iPad, and watch in bed with my headphones while my girlfriend sleeps or watches her stories. If this isn’t the most thoroughly engaging way to take in video, I don’t know what is. And funny enough, when it’s time for a communal viewing experience, we’ll put it on the good ol’ TV.
The book at bedtime (and the girlfriend) being replaced by your own personal TV experience.
So there you have it, Apple have discovered the new form factor for mobile TVs.
Monday, September 10. 2007
We've just got back from IBC. It was a busy show, but about the same as last year. (2004, 2005 and 2006 were all busier than the previous year.)
Although still small, the mobile TV and IPTV sections have both doubled in size this year. The IPTV sector has calmed down a bit and vendors are giving more focused descriptions of what they are doing. (A couple of years ago they were all claiming to be "end to end IPTV solution providers".)
On Mobile TV, this year First Partner's showed this very useful industry ecosystem map (downloadable here)
Source: First Partners
We do quite a bit of work on mobile TV and multimedia for clients, and structured data like this is always useful. Next week I am giving a seminar on Mobile TV at the Mobile Web 2.0 conference, as well as being on a few of the panels - one being on standards. Today I was doing some preparation on standards, and this document came to mind as a way of explaining the problem that Mobile TV - and mobile Web 2.0 - has in general.....and that is a profusion of standards (among others, like cost, of course).
To explain this standards issue for Mobile TV, its useful to go along the value chain from content capture through to the end device:
Standards for content capture in broadband video over IP are fairly well defined - there are different ones (MPEG4, Quicktime, Microsoft etc etc) to be sure, but interoperation is fairly good all considered, and its fairly easy to download a new format.
This is not the case with Mobile TV - there is a proliferation of techniques being pushed for content capture, and people we work with tell us much of the technology is not really "joined up" compared to Web TV. This is exacerbated by every operators' delivery stack being different, so the same phone on 2 different networks have to have different content processing regimes.
In addition, for various supply chain reason Mobile TV is a "short form media" (aka clips) based media. This is problematic in that most TV content is long form media. However any investment in "made for mobile content" is hard to justify, as these supply chain frictions make it very costly, especially in the early days when audiences are small. So the only real way of getting content is to take it off mainstream TV, but repurposing existing content into multiple formats is also costly for many of the the same reasons. Issue then is that nearly all video media is aimed at big screens, not the small "fourth screen" of mobile, so the experience is potentially non optimal.
That small screen, and lack of standards, also limits what one can do with advertising and raises the costs.
In the overall aggregation process - edit, search and publish - the tools to manipulate and publish mobile media content are considered to be less complete than the Web TV world, increasing the friction in this area as well.
One of the key tasks of any video service is the search capability so people can find the content - the Electronic Program Guide (EPG) function in the TV world. Again, the area is not in itself a barrier, but allied with the limited form factor of the device it raises barriers at a critical point in the process.
There are a number of approaches competing to distribute Mobile TV - Video Broadcast with a backpath, Digital Audio Broadcast based, and a number of point to point cell based approaches. In addition, within the main approaches there are competing technologies - DVB-H amd MediaFlo within video broadcasting, for example.
On the point to point services, overall coverage and handoff between cells is far from perfect, so keeping a constant stream going is non-trivial. Buffering is one answer, but that adds more gear (and power demand) to a crowded handset....
The mobile TV handset is not just a 'phone, from a digital TV point of view it is also the set top box and screen. This is a lot of functionality for a small device, and there are players coming at the end design from a number of approaches - from the phone manufacturers, from the PDA/small PC, and from consumer electronics - and then there is Apple (iPhone, iPod). (And the more one puts on board, the more battery life - and weight - is required)
We've noted already that different operators run varying end to end stacks, and in fact the same phone is often differently configured on different networks. There are also multiple operating systems on 'phones, and in addition, no two phone types are exactly alike so content is often (usually?) not output in the same way on different phones in the same operator's stack.
And the "So What" is....
This lack of standards across the value chain impacts the size of the pull-through economics, in that though there may be 2x as many mobile users across the world vs the PC, there is actually a Tower of Babel when it comes to languages they talk - so any one end-to-end mobile TV market (Content standards + Operator stack + Phone) is actually quite small, so the economics of mobile TV production are fairly poor for any one niche at present.
If one is looking at parallels, the mid 1980's for the PC / Networking industry suggests itself - multiple PC designs, multiple operating systems, multiple LAN and WAN technologies, multiple standards at each point of the supply chain.
What actually drove the PC / Internet as we understand it today was standards - but these were in effect driven by funding by some big players, creating de facto - not de jure - standards. DARPA's net won, IBM's PC won, and Microsoft forced a common operating system - and thus an entire ecosystem.
If one looks at Planet Mobile, then Mobile TV works in Japan and Korea - and in both these countries there is a combination of corporate and legislative pressure to drive far more standardised end-to-end ecosystems (and more rational pricing).
And the difference between the days of the voice mobile and the mobile Web 2.0 is that alternatives - Wifi etc - are far more viable today, and the size of the eventual market will tempt many.
So...we know the desired endgame...the question is will how we get there ?
(Update - the iPhone, with its end to end video supply chain and rapid adoption will probably finesse Mobile TV for quite a while)
Monday, January 22. 2007
Seems like Virgin's Mobile TV offering, UK's first, has been less that exciting in its takeup. see here (its from a Groaniad article). Quote:
Despite an aggressive GBP2.5 (US$4.9) million ad campaign, fronted by former Baywatch star Pamela Anderson, Virgin Mobile, the first to market in the U.K. with a broadcast TV service to mobile phones, has failed to gain much traction, according to this article in The Guardian. In fact, it quotes industry insiders as saying Virgin Mobile has signed up “significantly” fewer than 10,000 customers for its Virgin Mobile TV (VMTV) service.
Yet another Mobile promise being broken then.....we at Broadsight have been fairly sceptical of Mobile TV as it is touted today, as we feel it needs to be put in an ecosystem, much like iTunes did for music - but early research seemed to indicate it was quite well received.
So what gives? Quoting some mo' moCo
To remedy this problem, Virgin Mobile plans to offer a wider range of handsets later this year and introduce new services such as allowing people to download and store TV programs on their phones to view when they are out of coverage. But these measures won’t drive results if rival operators are right. They maintain VMTV’s problem is its limited range of channels. VMTV, backed by BT, uses the digital radio spectrum to broadcast TV, allowing viewers to watch five channels – compared to O2, which offers users 16 channels.
Ok...its in the details...but how is O2 doing then?
Well, I Googled, Dogpiled and Technorati'd away to find some mo' news but computer says no....all that came up was the breathless stuff from a year ago. Anyone else have any news?
Wednesday, January 17. 2007
Just had a look at GigaOm's NewTeeVee and there is this article with a video from Barack Obama's launch of his bid for the US presidency....
I'm using my laptop's 3G card right now, and a sign comes up on the video clip that says:
Uh oh....a paltry 384 kB/sec won't hack it any more in an IP TV/Video world - is this "no signal" signalling the end of the 3G video dream?
Monday, December 4. 2006
Last week UK 3G Mobile operator 3 UK unveiled its new prices for 3G data to its phones. While the more excitable elements of Planet Mobile were given over to gasps of ecstatic delight, more sensible elements were somewhat more sanguine.
Kate Fehrenbacher over at GigaOm puts it very well:
Today 3 announced the pricing of their X-Series service with two choices, 5 pounds ($10) or 10 pounds ($20) per month. While the company seems to have mostly stayed true to their low, flat fee, Internet-inspired intentions, they also added “fair use” guidelines — like a tiger, a carrier can’t really change its stripes.
This puts the 3 pricing for 3G mobile data at about the same price levels as the 3G data cards for laptops.
( A note to our non UK readers - WiFi access in the UK is expensive, fragmented and certainly not ubiquitous, so a 3G data card is a great option to be on line when on the move)
Quite why the Big 4 feel think that a mobile phone should have a near-order-of-magnitude higher price for 3G data to a mobile than to a laptop has been unclear to me for some time. It pretty much stopped their ability to own the mobile music track market in its tracks, for example.
In fact mobile music reseller MonsterMob did a deal at 30p / Mb in May/June 2006, which was then the rate for 3G data cards - see this report from Ovum here - but Voda has dropped that rate by c 2/3 now. Be interesting to see if Monstermob's prices have changed, can't tell as the MonsterMob website appears to have morphed from a RingTone to a Social Network site. That tells its own story I guess....
As well as pricing, the other issue Mobile Internet has still not faced up to is it's insistence on adhering to the Walled Garden concept. Although the new pricing from 3 has dropped the cost of going over the wall, this has really held up Mobile Internet's ability to move with the 'Net over the last few years.
So, will the UK's big 4 join in this orgy of data price reduction now, or will they let 3 to its own (X series) devices?
It will all depend on the rate at which we spurn our current 3G data deals and get it on down with 3...I wonder, is it any coincidence Voda rang me today with a seductive offer to extend my 3G contract?
Saturday, May 13. 2006
The 3G Mobile fraternity believes that Mobile TV is the next big thing to drive up their flagging ARPU and growth. Is it really? Do we really all want to watch TV on screens the size of postage stamps all day? And if not, what will we watch (if anything) on Mobile TV?
The omens are mixed.....small portable TVs have been around quite a while, and have not taken the world by storm - on the other hand, watching small TV-like images on PC screens is a part of the day now...and that gives a clue - these tend to be either short, to the point broadcasts or are kept as wallpaper on the screen while we work, much like radio is used (eg Ashes feed). Its harder to do that on your mobile, and less attractive if you have to pay by the byte.
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