OK, this isn’t a huge, well thought out treatise where I clearly state my objectives, supply pure reason and rationale, but rather just a big complaint. Like the web world before it, mobile is full of fairly random “standards” that are incompatible. And, in the last few years, web video has settled on largely a de facto standard, Flash. Sure, there is plenty of QuickTime and Windows Media stuff out there, some Silverlight and a smattering of Divx and a couple of others. For the most part, however, most web browsers and PCs have all of the stuff that you need to play video that you run into…not 100% true, but for the vast majority, their computer recognizes the file type and picks the right player and the video just happens.

In the world of mobile, that almost never happens. Yes, there are some companies that do HTTP streaming of video that can play in a Java app. There are others that use RTSP, and leverage the best quality that they can. But, there needs to be some level of transcoding that happens to the videos before they are playable on the mobile device. And without a mobile version of Flash, or Silverlight, or some relatively hardware independent way of displaying mobile video that is widely accepted, mobile video will not flourish the way that it ought. And this fact frustrates me.

In mobile video, we have the typical issues of mobile life. You have content owners, distributors, developers, and carriers typically competing for a slice of the revenue stream. And, as we’ve mentioned before, discrete subscription for mobile video isn’t likely to get to the tens or hundreds of millions in the United States. Indiscrete subscriptions, like Sprint’s Everything plan are likely a better route to massive adoption. But web video (outside of, ehem, “adult” content where the subscription model is still abundant) did not take off until there was a site that did all of the transcoding, and presentation layer stuff for you: YouTube.


There is no mobile version of You Tube. There are smatterings of content that are suitable (VCast, for instance, has good, deep content, but it is subscription-based). And there will be ad-supported video on demand solutions coming soon. But there is still no mobile video tipping point. Could mobile Hulu be the solution? Could a better mobile You Tube do it? Will it be a mobile only solution  that suprises us all? I am not sure. 

Here is what I do know:
  1. From a technical standpoint, mobile video software just ain’t that hard
  2. Hardware that acceptably supports mobile video is abundant
  3. No one has the vision (or muscle) to make video central to the mobile experience
  4. No one will make significant money through mobile video until #3 is achieved
The major reason mobile video isn’t central to the experience is insufficient bandwidth. The carriers do’t have big enough pipes to let everyone engage in broadband quality media engagement at the same time. There are solutions (3G, EVDO-A,WiFi, WiMax, LTE) but they haven’t hit total affordable ubiquity the same way wired broadband has. So, I guess the ranting can stop until somebody spends another $3 billion in infrastructure to get everywhere wireless broadband…or, I suppose, two smart people in a garage can figure out how to tip this whole thing…I’m hoping for the garage solution.

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