The Right Way to do Mobile Video

5:15 PM -- I have to admit that I’m not the biggest fan of the mobile video concept. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the technologies -- DVB-H, MediaFLO, and MobiTV. I’ve used MobiTV and it works reasonably well even on a 1XRTT network (Sprint’s, in my case). I don’t need HDTV quality and 5.1 channel audio when out and about. Rather, the big problem is that these offerings are just the broadcast video model on a small device.

And what’s wrong with that? Two things. First, TV has become unwatchable because of all the commercials. During my time with MobiTV, I found only three channels I’d want to spend any time with (another problem, but a personal one), but they all had the usual outrageous number of commercials for products that were of no interest to me. Nothing I’d rather do that waste my time (to say nothing of my battery life) watching insipid ads for junk I’ll never buy. The other problem is inherent in the nature of broadcasting, and that’s having to tune in at a certain time to watch a given show. That’s so 1950s and pre-TiVo/DVR. Ain’t gonna work.

The approach I really like is the Slingbox with its mobile client. But now Penthera is offering a carrier-centric system that also has great promise. They do non-real-time transfer of programming to local storage on (or associated with) the mobile device. This avoids any interruption or other quality programs during viewing, but it does require that the user decide what they’re going to watch in advance. This isn’t a big deal, of course, because, as I noted above, the broadcast model is fundamentally broken.

— 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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