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The Content Question

5:30 PM -- I was watching a TV show recently featuring John Chambers, Ed Zander, and other assorted luminaries discussing the whole subject of digital media (at least I think that’s what it was about; I found it while channel surfing).

Anyway, one of the panelists mentioned the old line about content being king, and I still think that’s fair. After all, the reason we buy network capacity is to move content. A big old network with nothing to move might be technically interesting, but CFOs everywhere would be peeved.

But content is a real problem given the nature of the value chain that connects content to the user. The three pieces involved are content, distribution, and delivery. Distribution over wireless channels can result in high costs and variable performance. Delivery in the case of wireless often involves tiny screens and limited user interfaces. This implies that we need to actually store -- or convert in real time -- content in or to the most appropriate form, given the combination of distribution and delivery available to us at any moment in time.

I think many in the content world often forget that we don’t need to send HDTV in any form to a handheld, wireless client device. It seems that a ton of money is being spent on reasonably inappropriate solutions just because the technology so allows. As an industry, we need to step back and think about building content delivery systems that really are suited to the nature of wireless and mobile devices. Wireless bandwidth is likely to remain precious -- they’re not making any more of it, and any reallocated spectrum is phenomenally expensive because of auctions -- and consumer dollars available for mobile content delivery are similarly limited, especially if gas prices don’t come down soon.

— Craig Mathias is Principal Analyst at the Farpoint Group , an advisory firm specializing in wireless communications and mobile computing. Special to Unstrung

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