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Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Place-shifting to mobile - IP and arbitrage, again

I've been watching with interest the growing momentum behind "placeshifting" - ie having access to your home content & applications when you're "somewhere else", either on an Internet connection in a cafe/laptop etc, or potentially on your mobile phone.

The best-known is SlingBox, which hooks into your TV and beams the content outbound over the Internet, for you to watch somewhere else. Access and Sony have launched a similar-sounding product.

Of course, the interesting thing here is whether the "somewhere else" in on a mobile device, arbitraging the inevitable trend of mobile-data towards flatrate pipes/large MB bundles, vs. the alleged extra amount people will pay an operator for a dedicated mobile TV "service". Obviously, the mobile TV service should be optimised for device size, user interface etc, but whether it'll stack up competitively against the "best efforts" version is yet to be proved.

Of course, this concept isn't new. During the earliest days of standalone home telephone answering machines in the 1980s, it was possible to dial-in & pick up your messages from a remote phone. It arbitraged against the hassle & cost of going home to get your messages in person. It used the phone network as a "pipe" for voice messages, rather than a dedicated operator-provided voicemail service.

Sending an MMS enables a friend to send you a "postcard" of wherever they might be. This arbitrages against the airfare needed to go & see it for yourself. This is an operator service, though. Sending a picture via email is less of a bundled service, more like a pipe-based one again.

Push email is obviously in the same category as well, although this has both operator-controlled (ie BlackBerry) and "pipe"-based user-controlled versions.

In other words, operators are more than happy to do their own "place-shifting" when it suits them. So really, the operators have nothing to complain about TV-placeshifting from a moral point of view. You don't hear about airlines barring carrier execs from flights (or downgrading them from business class to "best efforts" standby), as they contribute to turning them into dumb aluminium pipes & arbitraging them to the wall with MMS, do you?

.... all of which brings me to the most fascinating version of place-shifting: Vodafone Germany's trial . Nice to see big Red leading the charge on arbitrage for a change, rather than complaining about it & trying to block it. It will be very interesting to see if T-Mobile has a go as well, or whether "placeshifted TV" is added to the list of things that will get your 3G account summarily cancelled.....

1 comment:

Gabriel Brown said...

Hi Dean... I guess you know Orb, which is a quite cool "place-shifting" thing... you can get, say, your music from your PC on your mobile (Orb reformats the media stream according to your connection speed and device).

Problem I've found is that (a) it chews up your data plan, and (b) you need to have left your PC turned on