Tuesday, December 16, 2008, 7:32 AM ET|Posted by Will Richmond
As promised, each day this week I'm sharing one prediction for 2009, with each one getting progressively bolder as the week progresses (and yes, I'll concede - as a number of you privately pointed out to me - yesterday's forecast that the Syndicated Video Economy would grow in '09 was a pretty wimpy start). So moving out a little further on the limb, today's prediction #2 is that video delivered directly to mobile/wireless devices will take off in '09, finally.
For those of you who have been following mobile/wireless video delivery, this has been a market that's perpetually been "just around the corner." In fact, a little over a year ago when I was planning VideoNuze, several people suggested that I shouldn't just focus on broadband delivery (as I define it to mean high-speed wired delivery of video to a home or business), but also mobile/wireless video. But after doing some due diligence I concluded that the market wasn't there yet, and that the vast majority of new video activity would be focused on wired broadband. Indeed, I think that's how '07 and much of '08 have shaped up.
However, having tracked recent activity in the mobile video space, I think '09 is going to be a big year of growth and recognition for this new medium (in fact, an old friend gently chastised me over lunch last week for even drawing a distinction between wired and wireless delivery, saying, "come on, it's ALL broadband!" I think he makes a very fair point.)
What has traditionally held back mobile delivery are a lack of video-capable devices, voice and text-focused wireless networks and a closed "on-deck" paradigm, which is the wireless carrier's version of the cable and satellite industry's proverbial walled-garden.
These limitations have now been mostly addressed, or are in the process of being addressed. On the device side, the most notable video-capable device is of course the iPhone, which by my calculations has already sold over 13 million units and is on its way to almost 20 million by the end of the year. Everyone I know who has an iPhone - especially kids - are infatuated with the video feature (if you've never seen it, especially now using AT&T's 3G network, get thee to an Apple store immediately!). In '09, the iPhone is poised for even greater popularity as Wal-Mart begins stocking it, possibly for just $99. Recession or not, the iPhone is going to remain white hot.
Not to be lost in the iPhone's phenomenal wake are many other new video-capable phones. There's of course the new G1 from T-Mobile, powered by Android, Google's new mobile OS. I got my first look at one last week, and though not as sleek as the iPhone, I was able to watch excellent YouTube video. There are plenty of others to choose from as well, including the Samsung Propel, the LG Incite, the new BlackBerry Storm and the latest mother-of-all-phones, the Nokia N64, which comes with 16GB of internal memory (enough for 40 hours of video). Whereas many of us today carry phones incapable or barely capable of viewing video, in '09 the replacement process will be in full swing.
Of course, all the cool devices in the world don't matter unless you have a robust underlying network and the freedom to view what you want. On this front, the wireless carriers' push to build out their next generation 3G networks finally allows sufficient bandwidth to view high-quality video (though not HD yet). Next up is 4G, first from Clearwire, the SprintNextel-Intel-Google-cable industry consortium that's deploying its WiMax network with speeds of up to 6 Mbps downstream being promised. There's also MediaFLO, Qualcomm's mobile broadcasting platform that has steadily built out an ecosystem of technology, carrier and content partners.
Last but not least are the consumer-focused services and applications. Until recently, this market has mainly consisted of packaged subscription services like Verizon's VCast and MobiTV, which itself recently announced more than 5 million subscribers. The combination of new devices and networks promises to bring an increase in on-demand, web-based, ad-supported video consumption (plus paid downloads to be sure, courtesy of the iPhone mainly). Another interesting twist is the advent of live broadcasting from mobile devices, powered by providers like Qik, Kyte and Mogulus. These all supercharge the Twitter micro-blogging phenomenon.
All of this underscores why the distinction between wired and wireless broadband really becomes meaningless over time. The mobile experience is going to seem more and more like the one you have sitting at your computer, with the added benefit of portability. To throw a blue-sky variable into the mix, one wonders if at some point you'll simply plug your phone into your TV and watch streamed or downloaded video that way, rather than through a set-top box or a wired broadband connection. There's a convergence concept for you!
Years in the making, mobile/wireless video is finally upon us, and '09 is going to be a big year. That's good news for all of us as consumers, and it surely means I'll be working a lot harder to stay on top of things.
What do you think? Post a comment now.
Tomorrow, 2009 Prediction #3