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?


I spent a lot of time in b-school examining the the mobile video and IPTV space. Mobile video has its place, but the existing players don’t get it. People don’t want to watch TV on their phones. (I wrote a column on this for the upcoming issue of DV Magazine and I’ll link to it once it’s published.) There is a future for mobile video, but it’s not entertainment. Americans use mobile phones as communications tools. Give them mobile video that helps them make a decision in a retail environment or get location based entertainment suggestions. That will work. Snippets of the Daily Show that look like crap and take forever to load are not worth $15 a month.

IPTV on the other hand shows promise. But most of what’s out there requires and inelegant set top box and/or access to a Windows Media Center PC. Yuck. I’ve got enough stuff hooked up to my TV already, and do I really want to spend a Saturday afternoon configuring the beast?

This is where the iPod comes in. Sitting in a dock by my TV, it won’t add significantly to the clutter of boxes and devices. In fact it will look pretty cool. It’s dirt simple to use. Now I haven’t seen the image from a video iPod on a TV yet, but if it’s reasonable it might just be the device to bring niche content into the livingroom. I can view content on the iPod, on a PC, or a TV — all managed by iTunes. Not a great day to be Brightcove. One analyst was quoted in the Boston Globe last week likening Brightcove to Google. I would liken it to without the cute sock puppet mascot. Brightcove had a clever idea, but it hitched its wagon to the wrong technology.

I’ve ordered my video iPod. I’ll report back after I’ve had a chance to test it. (It ships in 2-3 weeks.)


A little bit about me. I’m a 20-year or so post production veteran. The bulk of my TV career was spent at WGBH in Boston with the documentary series American Experience. Since leaving WGBH at the dawn of the century, I did the dot-com consultant thing, started my own firm, and received my MBA. I currently teach post production at Boston University’s College of Communication. I choose not to get a real job because it’s just really cool to be paid to watch TV, play with gadgets, and occasionally pontificate for a living.

Though I’ve always had the requisite vanity and chutzpah to contribute to the din in the blogosphere, I believed I lacked the expertise to comment on the industry. That was until I spent some quality time with real, live industry analysts.

I mostly work from home so I can be around to taxi kids to sports practices after school. I’ve been blessed with a remarkable stable of clients who can deal with my odd schedule. We’ll see what happens during summer vacation.

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