Personal Broadcasting Thoughts

Kevin Werbach over at The Feature pontificates a bit on what I have been calling Personal Broadcasting - the ability to publish video online from your mobile phone. Not to pick on Kevin (which it seems I'm always doing), but he's a bit off base on a few things:

While some people will be willing to squint at a small, jerky image of their favorite TV show while sitting on public transportation, that will largely be an application of convenience rather than a primary usage driver.

Spoken like someone who hasn't seen the latest and greatest mobile phones like the Nokia 6620 or Samsung MM-A700. There's nothing jerky about the videos that download, and if the screen is big enough to read websites and play games, it's more than big enough to play back video for comfortable viewing. (At least he didn't use the word "postage-stamp", god I hate that!).

But that's just nitpicking. The main point is that Kevin thinks he's stumbled onto some use of mobile video - recording and posting - that no one else has thought of. Those dumb entrenched carriers and boneheaded analysts are just too stoopid to realize how people will actually use their video phones and high-speed wireless networks.

Ummmm, sorry. As someone who's part of a company selling these types of solutions to carriers I can guarantee that the wireless operators are already on top of this and many competitors are already out there trying to sell a variety of mobile video solutions. That genie is already way out of the bottle. Two examples of companies providing video services: LightSurf already supports video mail and online storage and Text America supports video (and has for a while now. I've got to figure out how to get a thumbnail like they do!).

I will admit that a year or so ago, the carriers had the brain-dead idea that MMS was going to replace SMS and that there would be a huge market for pre-packaged MMS animations, etc. delivered via premium plans that would overshadow SMS and make them rich, rich, rich. They were completely, horribly wrong. The moblog phenenom snuck under the radar (once again - like SMS) and now every carrier out there is rushing to implement some sort of online photo album. But the leap from posting .jpgs to posting .3gp videos wasn't a huge one - even the carriers could guess that next step - and are rushing to either implement or partner with someone for that sort of service as well. Honestly, it's all just data to them.

So even though I generally agree with Kevin's post - Personal Broadcasting will be key - I have to say that 1) On-demand mobile video will be huge. This isn't MMS or some other non-proven system, this is TiVo in your hand - both convenient and compelling. And 2) The carriers and manufacturers are exploring every possible avenue to generate higher ARPUs. It's a feeding frenzy right now as small companies compete to get a piece of the action.

Now, how long will this take to happen and how long before my mother is sending me videos and making video conference calls from her mobile? That's a hard thing to guess. But I think with the carriers starting to push mobile video capable phones, launching mobile media online services and the general public starting to use mobile data services more, the tipping point could be a lot sooner than you would think.

Time will tell, though... In a year, SMS could most likely be the number one used data service still, but let's hope not.


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