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Last Updated: Friday, 13 January 2006, 17:52 GMT
Mobile TV finally gets moving
Ian Hardy
By Ian Hardy
Click's North America technology correspondent

We have been talking about mobile TV for several years, but so far the services have been limited and the technology not quite up to the job. Ian Hardy found at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas that things seem to be coming together.

Video mobile
The mobile TV market has struggled to take off in recent years

They were everywhere at CES: devices to transport your favourite TV shows and video clips wherever you go.

The shrinking screen provides an expanding market, and the cell phone is at the centre of it.

Verizon Wireless, for example, plans to dramatically increase the number of downloadable video clips it offers its V Cast customers.

These customers are not always at home or at the office, as Patrick Kimball, from Verizon Wireless, says.

"But, wherever they are, they're going to have their cell phone with them, and that gives them access to this kind of content.

"People really are willing to pay a slight premium for that kind of convenience and accessibility."

Changing TV

There are two versions of video by phone: downloadable clips and live streaming TV.

Clearly the iPod revolution has hit us, and it's moving us forward into the video revolution
Douglas Maier, Archos Inc
Live TV often gets lost on a 1.5 inch screen, but programme makers are taking notice says Dave Whetstone of Mobi TV, which is already on 60 devices and now intends to launch on wi-fi enabled gadgets.

"More and more content providers are producing specific content for the mobile.

"The kind of things they'll want to do are more close-in headshots, less wide-pan shots where you can't really see the detail, and increasing the size of the graphics."

There are other alternatives, such as PocketDish, and many other major players are eyeing your handheld device: Google, Sony and Intel are a few.

Nonetheless, if you cannot find suitable sized material you can always record it yourself.

Creative's Zencast software lets customers make and manage video blogs which can then be synched on its devices.

Product awareness

The device that has grabbed all the headlines in the past few months is, of course, Apple's iPod video, which has pushed portable video players into the forefront of consumer electronics.

Video iPod
Apple's video iPod has raised the profile of mobile TV enormously
Other companies that have been in the portable video world for years do not seem upset by all the high profile publicity given to Apple. It helps attract attention to the entire product category.

Douglas Maier from Archos says: "Clearly the iPod revolution has hit us, and it's moving us forward into the video revolution.

"We've got the technology that, quite honestly, they haven't come to the market with yet. They've got a downloadable player; we've got something that records from live TV.

"Nobody else really has that category available, so it gives Archos a chance to be a market leader and expand our brand."

Slingbox Mobile is an upgrade to the already popular Slingbox, which is a device that sends video to your computer anywhere in the world via broadband.

Sling Media's Blake Krikorian says: "For 2006 the new thing that we're going to show is a software client that allows me to watch my living room TV from my mobile phone wherever I happen to be.

"So right now I'm actually watching the Rosebowl live. We're in Las Vegas, the Rosebowl's live in my house in San Matteo, California."

Slingbox is a non-subscription service, giving it a distinct advantage. Content providers are in a quandary, unsure whether to continue to sell small screen clips per play, or give them away to boost TV ratings and create a new stream of advertising revenue.

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