Keeping An Eye On Mobile Video
By Carlo Longino, Tue Jun 15 22:00:00 GMT 2004

One company is developing a portal to deliver mobile content over video calls, while users' appetites for video increase, as does demand for somewhere to store it all.

MocoNews links to an interesting piece about a new product from Comverse, a company best known for their messaging and voice mail products. Its Mobile Video Portal, which is in tests by some European carriers, uses video telephony to guide users through a portal to make video calls and access video content. The company says it's similar to an interactive voice-response system, but instead of making it insanely difficult to get through to an actual human to fix your bank balance or something, it lets users choose the video they want to see.

But since Comverse's background is in messaging, it sees some other potential uses for video, like video call answering, perhaps the next progression of the ringback tone. Instead of just customized audio, callers trying to reach a friend via a video call could be greeted with a customized video, then could leave a video message instead of a voicemail. It's also not unfathomable to think the company's investigating how video content could be passed around from user to user -- in a "check this clip out!"-type fashion -- a move that should light another spark under an already-hot segment.

South Korean carrier SK Telecom is already seeing the benefits from its mobile-video services: users on its EV-DO network, called June, spend twice as much on their monthly bills as other users. June offers services like real-time video of traffic conditions, and video-on-demand TV shows. SK's already launched a satellite it will use for digital broadcasting to handsets, and will offer users 39 channels of news, movies and information for about $10 per month.

And where can users store all this video? On a 20-gig hard drive, of course. Even though some analysts have said hard drives in handsets are a long way off, one Japanese stock analyst says he expects to see high-end handsets featuring hard drives by March 2005. The mind boggles with the possibilities that gigabytes of storage could unlock, whether it be the ultimate connected iPod or a mobile Tivo that's always got the latest episode of your favorite shows cued up for when you've got a spare moment to kill.

The size of the mobile-phone market should drive down the prices of tiny hard disks quite quickly. The total hard-drive demand is about 300 million a year -- compare that to the 600 million handsets expected to be sold worldwide in 2004, and there's some serious potential volume.