Commuters in Oxford St, London © Gary HayesA friend sent me this link this morning “Format wars over mobile TV” A safe BBC article on how TV on the move is still very much in its infancy (really!) that markets are still immature and technically the two main standards DVB-H and DMB are the new VHS and Betamax for mobTV. Not a particularly deep or analytical piece from the BBC but it does raise again the current practise of ‘mobile use’ second guessing – how long will someone look at something on a small screen while they go about their business – commuting, socializing and of course spending far too much time in the restroom. The part of the article is that trots out the same sentiment again

Analysts say the key message about video programming for mobile phones is to think short and limit content to 90 seconds.

Why on earth do we think only short form content will work – certainly in places with heavy commuting perhaps there is some reasoning – but I can’t recall many 90 second commutes, they tend to be a little longer! In fact I used to spend at least 3 hours a day commuting around London for 20 years. It would have been wonderful on some grey, busy mornings of having the option to watch a few of my favourite TV programmes – captured on my interoperable PVR/PSP system, oh you lucky next generation. There again I was ahead of the curve, and this will sound a little geeky, I did spend a year watching video CDs (on a small VCD player – the same size as a normal CD portable) using – wait for it, video glasses.

Yes I was one of the few people on the planet around 2002 sitting on public transport with video glasses and earphones on a crowded commuter train. After a couple of weeks of this totally anti-social activity, people got used to it/me. But I ran out of media – at least the drive to keep capturing, recoding and burning. I also had for a while one of those early mobile TVs, a Sony handheld grey thing (the colour matched the London weather) – yes mobile TV has been around for a long time, remember analogue? The few times I used to take that on the train I used to get lots of interest in the ‘what is that’ or ‘how much’ camp – and crowds gathered around me watching cricket or comedy. This didn’t last long as I stood out – I decided to wait until everyone had one. Now that is getting just a little nearer isnt it readers!

My point is I was happily copying some of my legal DVDs and home movies onto VCD disks and watching them on the move. I am not suggesting I see a future of thousands of people walking around, crashing into telegraph poles, or being mugged with their surround experience video glasses but, I just wish commentators would stop running the safe, conventional ‘short form only on mobile’ line. Sure to make money at the moment the marketers are flogging the short cartoons and risque clips that get people holding their mobile in friends faces saying ‘look at this’ – part of the campaign of course. We are just at the beginning of a new era of personalized content at home, on the move and hyper-distributed. Here we go again, that radio with pictures thing will never take off.

Posted by: © Gary Hayes 2005