Mobile Video and the Death of J2ME Games


I've been talking about mobile video for over a year now - since I first got a video app for my 7650 back in January of last year. If you've read this weblog for any time you know how nuts I get every time I see it working. Well it happened again today - we just got a couple Samsung MM-A700's and I lost my mind at how cool the video functionality is.

Not only is it a really nice phone - really light, big keypad, nice screen, decent UI, rotating camera, etc. - but the video is the key feature, not an add-on. I just saw mobile video the other day on the Nokia 6620 with EDGE, but for some reason the integration of video on this particular Sprint phone is just super-nice. Click a button, 10 seconds later you're watching a 2 minute video clip from CNN. Very cool. On a mid-level mass-market phone, no less! Mobile video has arrived.

This is going to kill Java games, I've decided. Pay attention, if you're a VC, because since Jamdat filed to go public, you've been converging on the space like lemmings:

So far this year, Jamdat Mobile Inc., of Los Angeles, has filed to go public; Mforma Group, Inc., of Kirkland, Wash., has raised a $44 million round; and Sequoia Capital and Kliener Perkins Caufield & Byers, both of Menlo Park, have funded EA founder Trip Hawkins in a new venture dubbed Digital Chocolate Inc., based in San Mateo. Most recently, San Mateo-based Sorrent, Inc. has raised $20 million, led by BA Ventures, of Foster City. Three other Peninsula investors -- New Enterprise Associates of Menlo Park, Globespan Capital Partners of Palo Alto and Sienna Ventures of Menlo Park -- also played a role.

"In two months' time, venture investors have recognized this is a great market in the U.S. and there are a finite number of lead players," says Rory O'Driscoll, managing director at BA Ventures. "They've made bets real quick."

"It was role reversal," says Sorrent CFO Paul Zuzelo. "We had VCs cold-calling us."

This is all wonderful - I love to finally see real VC interest in the mobile space - but I'm sorry it's just not going to be the growth market all the analysts think it is. First, I can't play mobile Java games any more. I much prefer my hacked versions of my N-Gage games (fair-use again) which provide deep-levels, 3D graphics and more. Some dinky version of Tetris or another Prince-of-Persia side scroller isn't the basis for another Google. Sorry. But secondly the time when people play games on their phones is going to be taken over by watching video instead, it's that simple. And not just commercial broadcasts either, but also lots more user-generated video as well. "Personal Broadcasting" and things like video mail are going to be a revolution.

There was some comparision in some articles I saw of the services offered on AT&T Wireless and Sprint compared with MobiTV. Let me say that MobiTV to me is *still* more compelling even though it's at a slower video frame rate. Why? Because it's *live* television, not 2 minute clips. You can rip through the 5 or 6 clips on Sprint's CnnToGo menu in just a few minutes and you may not be interested in them all, so you stop them half way through and run out of video to watch sooner than it seems. Unlimited access to broadcasted video is key.

The next step will be on-demand video for my phone. When I can get all my TiVoed videos from home to play on my mobile? Forget it. There won't be a single game of mobile Tetris played ever again.

Update: The Feature is playing devil's advocate about "Mobile TV." Who wants it, they ask? Me for one, but I'm sure as many people as currently own a television will too. The article points out an aspect of TiVoToGo which I had overlooked before: the ability to share the content with limited devices (like mobiles). Rock on! Always nice to see my dreams become reality.


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