Mobile Video: Not Ready for Prime Time

Mobile Video: Not Ready for Prime Time

It was the talking heads on MSNBC who convinced me that mobile video isn't even close to being ready for the mass market. After spending 10 minutes peering at a news broadcast on my Nokia 6620, I can tell you this: The 2-inch screen is the last place I want to watch the evening news, or a concert, or a basketball game. Mobile video -- at least what Cingular, Sprint, and Verizon are currently offering -- has a long way to go.

Carriers, of course, are banking big on mobile video. Now that most new cell phones feature color screens and high-speed radios (using either the Edge or the EV-DO standard), video seems like a natural. Cingular and Sprint have both been experimenting with video services, heavy on news and sports, and neither has fared well. Consumer response has been tepid at best -- just a few hundred thousand subscribers total. After all, if you want to watch a baseball game, you probably won't choose to do it on your phone.

What's in it for the carriers? Revenue of $10 to $15 per customer a month -- they hope. If consumers do flip for mobile video, though, it won't be for what I've seen of it. Orange's mobile video service, developed by MobiTV (which also developed Cingular's and Sprint's services), is especially unappealing: Essentially, subscribers will be able to watch 10 different channels, including the Cartoon Network and CNN International, on their phones. Not highlights, mind you, but the whole show -- as seen in greater comfort and without extra charges on your living room TV.

What would draw a good audience? Breaking news bulletins, for starters. Or sports highlights. Those are no-brainers. But I don't think we've seen the killer app for mobile video yet. I suspect it'll be something that doesn't replicate TV or radio but rather invents an entirely new experience. The cell-phone-based audio/video tour guides now popping up at national parks are a start. One thing I am sure of: The breakthrough app will take advantage of the most salient characteristic of the cell phone -- it's the one device you never leave home without.

Ding, ding! The killer app for mobile video? Augmented reality...
Thanks to rhodopsin12.


  1. No problem! Keep up the great work, BJ. Your blog is excellent. -rhodopsin12


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