More on IP[od]TV

From Apple poised to ignite mobile video

Apple’s offering, however, is far from complete, warned Michael McGuire, research director at Gartner. The introduction of a video iPod has only solved the technology side of the problem of how to create a market for digital media.

The amount of video content being offered needs to greatly increase, McGuire pointed out, before portable video becomes a viable business.

What doesn’t get mentioned in the article is that Apple has solved the chicken and egg problem. It’s introduced a technology that makes it worthwhile to create the content, something Akimbo, Dave, and Brightcove haven’t done. The cool thing is that Apple has essentially guaranteed an ongoing platform for portable video. Every new full-sized iPod going forward is video capable. Apple’s going to sell boatloads of the things anyway because Christmas is coming and the MP3 player market isn’t saturated yet. So Apple makes money while waiting for portable video to take off, and makes money even if it doesn’t.

I have no idea what the incremental cost of adding video to an iPod is, but I’m sure it’s a relatively small investment considering the upside potential. Also, Apple’s saving money on this generation by dropping Firewire compatibility for USB, so it’s probably very close to a breakeven proposition with little risk.

One guy who totally gets it and is a pleasure to read about this stuff is Fortune’s Peter Lewis. He loves the new iMac as an answer to Microsoft’s Medi[ocrity] Center and hates the ROKR.

Still, no one summed up the ROKR better than my friend Jon Alper who noted that an iPod nano duct-taped to a standard mobile phone delivers both a superior form factor and user experience. What can one expect from a product named for a homophobic relief pitcher? The ROKR also illustrates the complete idiocy of big media’s DRM and pricing policies. A ROKR user can buy a song from iTunes but can’t use that song as a ringtone. That song from iTunes costs $0.99 while the ringtone costs $2.99.

While I’m on the subject of pricing… iTunes charges $1.99 for music videos, further illustrating the absurdity of the wireless carriers’ pricing models. A music video on Verizon’s V Cast costs $3.99. It looks worse and can’t be played on anything but that little phone, and requires a $15 per month subscription to access. And I can’t move the video to a PC or TV. In fact, if I upgrade my phone I can’t move the video to my new phone.

V Cast will survive. It’s a pretty decent package of mobile data services that just needs a better pricing scheme. But you can start making funeral arrangements for MobiTV. At first glance it has lined up a compelling roster of content providers. The case can be made for a broadcast TV model for news, weather, and sports. That stuff needs to be live. An iPod surely won’t supplant it at any price point. But who needs video on their phones for the weather? If I’m on the go, just give me the text. I can see it’s raining. All I want to know is when it will stop. Sports… some highlights might be cool. But at 1 or 2 frames per second (soon to skyrocket to 10 to 12 if you upgrade your phone), on a screen that makes an iPod look like IMAX, who’s going to pay $10 per month? The diehard sports fans will get their phones from the ESPN MVNO. The rest just want to see how their fantasy players are doing. Text will be fine. News? Those big events will draw interest. But thankfully big news events that have people running to their TVs don’t happen too frequently.

All that other stuff on MoribundTV can be better experienced on an iPod. Who wants to watch cartoons at a couple of frames a second?

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