ElectronicsWeekly posted an article today on mobile TV, asking “What is needed to make it fly?” After a moment or two, my cynical side answered, “an audience” and “a compelling reason” to watch live television on a phone.
I took a quick inventory of myself and others I’ve watched using cell phones during various design research projects. When we’re mobile, we’re usually active, which isn’t necessarily good for watching live TV on a small device. And there are times when we’re mobile but stationary — like at the doctor’s office, waiting for a movie to start, sitting on a plane — and mobile television might come in handy then.
But when this happens, I usually pull out some content I’ve prepared myself or bought from the iTunes Music Store or Amazon’s Unbox. I’ve seen others do the same with their iPods with video, iPhones, or other portable entertainment devices.
Come to think of it, the only times I’ve ever seen anyone watching live television on a portable device was one of those small TV sets from Sony or Casio, the ones with the tiny screens and an adjustable antenna, usually at sporting events.
We’ve moved beyond the mini-TV with an antenna and can now watch television on a cell phone (from Samsung, Nokia, and others) or mobile entertainment device through mobile “television” services from AT&T (CV), Verizon (V-Cast), or MobiTV, among others. But these shows are canned offerings and not live signals.
For this to happen, ElectronicsWeekly notes, issues regarding a maze of digital broadcast standards must be sorted out, allowing live TV signals to be received by a variety of handsets around the world. The chip manufacturers like Texas Instruments will have to improve their products, especially when it come to power consumption and handling signal interference. Some cell phone manufacturer will have to design a handset worth watching live TV on. And then there’s the issue of what the carriers will charge for the TV service.
Even if this happens, I still wonder about watching live TV on a cell phone. We live in time-shifted societies, where we record shows on TiVo and digital video recorders to watch later, at our convenience. We are beginning to download our favorite programs through iTunes, Unbox, or other services so we can watch them when we have the time.
So what does live mobile TV really offer us? We could keep up with news and breaking events such as Hurricane Katrina. We could watch the Cardinals and the Tigers in the World Series or the Colts and the Bears in the Super Bowl in real time.
But most of us can wait to watch “The Young and the Restless” if we’re at the doctor’s office, or “Heroes” or “Lost” if we’re busy Monday and Wednesday nights. There’s always TiVo, DVRs, video-on-demand, pay-per-view, Internet streaming, the ITMS, Unbox, Bit Torrent . . .
Credit: Image of Sony Watchman courtesy of Transistor.org