Making the Multiplex Mobile
Portable video players are a good idea, according to Wireless Supersite Editor Ross Rubin, but there's a dilemma in getting the right content onto them.
Yesterday, Storage Supersite Editor David Morgensterns column questioned consumers demand for mobile digital video. He has good reason to be skeptical: While Apple Computers iPod was a natural digital successor to the Sony Walkman, the market for portable video really has no strong precedent. Sure, there have been portable televisions for decades, but they have been hamstrung by spotty broadcast reception. More recently, portable DVD players have arrived at prices and form factors that make them tough to justify to laptop users, and have thus been relegated to that dark corner of U.S. consumer video located between WebTV and high-definition videotape recorders.
Indeed, even TiVo, which has inspired "cult-like" gatherings, has attracted fewer than 1 million users in the four years of its availability. Tivos closest competitor, ReplayTV, is now heading to its third home after its last parentSonicBlue filed for bankruptcy. Finally, the dramatic price decline in standalone DVD recorders, while potentially a great complement to companies like Panasonic that have the fortitude to combine one with a hard disk-based recorder, could also spell trouble for the category in the long term. After all, do consumers really need two devices to bring their VCRs into the digital age?
Mobile video has a long history in computing beyond the laptop. The most erudite of Apple trivia buffs may remember Newtons stillborn cousin, code-named Sweet Pea, which was to be a CD-based mobile multimedia player. In the modern era, PocketPC Films has so tightly squeezed such films as "Natural Born Killers" and "The Big Easy" to get them onto iPaqs and now even
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