More Mobile Media


I'm getting more and more excited about the prospects for Mobile Media. The more I commute, the more time I have to think about the possibilities of always-on connections via GPRS/EDGE/CDMA2000 1x/3G and the more I get excited about the stuff that's coming.

Just recently, for example, I saw this comparision of different music services (via Dr. Thauvin, of course). It basically separated out the current and upcoming music services as music downloads (iTunes), unlimited streams (Rhapsody), or combination of both (Napster). And I was thinking about this my way to work this morning.

First, let's think of music downloads as the first pure example of "consumer downloads". The way that music data is handled will eventually translate to eBooks, videos and software, I'm sure. And secondly, let's think about how all this translates to mobile devices.

iPods are already mobile and work by the "sync-and-run" model which is great in the pre-3G present that we still live in. There's no reason that this can't be translated to mobile phones. The N-Gage pretends towards that model with its integrated USB cable which is meant to be used to copy music files to the device for play on it's integrated MP3 player. It only has a max of 128MB, but still, it's the idea that counts. I also have used it to copy games, ebooks and other files. What's missing is the automated goodness of iTunes. I want to be able to do all this syncing of music files to my phones seamlessly and without wires. And not just music, but *any* bandwidth heavy media file, really. When I wake up, for example, NPR has already broadcast Morning Edition on the East Coast and it should be available for me to sync-and-run. Wirelessly, on a timer, taking advantage of my DSL broadband and my Bluetooth (or WiFi) to do it seamlessly.

In fact, along these lines, when is going to support mobile phones? They already have NPR feeds as well as a ton of audio books available for various PDAs and the iPod. It seems a no brainer to support smartphones.

To continue. The next mobile biz model, which I'm betting on as the 3G (or near 3G) networks get up to speed, is on-demand media over the air. This is what I tried to do the other day with, but didn't work just yet. If the 6600 supported EDGE, it would've worked like a charm since it's definitely a bigger pipe, but my guess is that GPRS is still just a little too slow for the media stuff just yet. But still. The idea is that you would sign up to a service like Rhapsody or Napster, then where ever and when ever you want, you listen to whatever album you want. Forget 20GB disk drives and all that ripping and syncing stuff. Just like the article said, your iPod can hold 10,000 songs. Are you going to pay $10,000 to fill it up? No way. The Media services are the way to go.

As the speeds of the networks rise, you could also start to buy the songs for offline use as well, just like you do with a regular landline connection now. This goes back to the iTunes or Audible model. You'd need high-bandwidth and big storage, but it's definitely a possibility. We're starting to see that sort of thing with the click-and-run software services like Palm's new Addit app, where you can buy programs over the air. The J2ME and Brew OTA downloads are the same. But these apps are all in the kilobytes... I'm talking MBs of data in the near future.

But wait, maybe you don't want to pay for a service or for downloads. Say you already have a Terabyte of MP3s ripped at home already (or actually have spent $10,000 filling up your iPod) and a broadband connection. Well, I think another outlet for this stuff is "personal multimedia streaming". Think of this sort of services as a personal Shoutcast reflector that you can listen to wherever you go. It's a personal data repository in the sky. Your data wherever you are. Perfect! Hmm. But that could cost a mint in data charges unless you had an "all you can eat" plan, wouldn't it? I guess we need a hard drive on our phone. I wonder when the first Gigabyte smartphone will arrive to store all those music files?

Now - let's broaden this thought train a bit from just music to all media. That's when it's going to get really interesting. MobiTV is showing us that TV on the phones is doable, even at today's data rates. Like I talked about before, a Mobile TiVo would be really cool, as is more commercial services where you can choose from a list of shows and see them on demand (without having to record them at home first). Why not? There's millions of hours of backlogged sitcoms out there just sitting around. Hell, how many thousands of hours of just Friends are there to choose from?

Anyways, this stuff is coming. It's coming soon, it's coming fast and when it hits people are going to wonder how they ever lived without it. I wonder when the first media service like Rhapsody will support mobile phones (they seem to be playing with the idea since they have a WAP site which allows you to peruse their library and is only missing the "play" link to actually be useful.) I wonder when Hollywood is going to realize how much of a market is in mobile devices? Forget DVDs, it's the *data* dummies. Move those bits and make that money.

Okay, enough stream of conciousness ranting. Mobile media definitely jazzes me up.


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