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Thursday, June 21, 2007

AT&T video sharing. Not new, and what's the point anyway?

There have been various IMS/almost-IMS video sharing trials and deployments over the past 18 months. Nokia's one with CSL in Hong Kong was an early example.

So quite why AT&T thinks it's somehow special is beyond me. Almost as far beyond me as why anyone else thinks that video sharing (or "see what I see" as some wince-inducing marketing people put it) satisfies any consumer needs whatsoever.

Leaving aside the fact that it doesn't work across networks, or on any but a handul of phones, or that people who are walking or driving can't watch inbound video, let's think about the practicalities.

1) I see something cool/interesting.

2) I call you up "Hey, I'm watching something cool/interesting, check this out!"

2b) 97% of the time you're on the wrong network, wrong phone, out of coverage or too busy to watch video

3) Miraculously, you watch what I can see, in realtime, over the network. Awesome!

4) I meet up with 10 other friends in the pub that evening "Hey, I saw something really cool/interesting today!" .... "Wow dude, did you record it?".... "Errrr. No. I expensively sent it to Eric in realtime, so I can't show it to you guys. Or upload it to Youtube. Or email it to my aunt. Damn".

And yes, I know the hypothetical scenarios of a business traveller being called by their spouse to see what their little child is up to. Given point (2b) above, this will only work on a call at a pre-scheduled time. When you might as well stick the little blighter in front of a PC & webcam and do it for free via Yahoo or Skype....

It's a solution looking for a problem.


Rick Hultz said...

Another form of communication. People tend to adopt anything that allows for some form of communication.

Dean Bubley said...

Really? People adopt anything for communication?

MMS - hardly used
Mobile video calling - never used
Cell broadcast - nope
Infra red in phones - nada

Maybe we should try integrating Morse code, semaphore flags or a way of controlling homing pigeons into the handsets too?

Brad Heise said...

Forward thinking companies like AT&T still have to try to find the next must-have service or device to improve their competitive positions. What next generation capabilities will come about now that this service is available? How about cell based servers for news networks that allow every future enabled video stream phone to provide real time video of important but normally missed news events? What about enhancements to wireless capable desk and laptops to allow a video call to be saved to hard drive on demand? Once saved, the option to share beyond one other person in different venues becomes self evident. Just because it's phone to phone technology this morning, I would not limit thinking to such a narrow application. After all, it took nearly half a century for Alessandro Volta's work with storage batteries to find it's first practical application, a dozen or so years after his death. I would call Volta's work with electricity a very successful solution looking for a problem as well. Let's see how this video phone thing plays out, shall we?

Dean Bubley said...

I'm not writing off all video applications on mobile handsets.

I'm only specifically writing off real-time person-to-person video calling or sharing on mobile handsets.

There are some plausible person-to-server or person-to-PC apps, yes - for example uploads to a social networking site. Probably best done outside of IMS, though, as you don't want to restrict it solely to app servers controlled by a carrier, as you'll miss 90% of the potential market.

Also, over time the phone's videocamera ability will grow much faster than possible cost-effective over-the-air bandwidth. As will the price curve on local memory & storage. So unless it HAS to be realtime, the general trend will be towards sideloading rather than OTA uploading.

Michael said...

I tend to agree with you on this one, Dean. I think the "real time" points are the most salient. What would be more useful and probably practical is to be able to post it to Youtube, your own web blog, etc. and send out broadcast SMS/emails to notify people that it has been posted. Problem with that is that it is not all under the operators' control.

Chris Hill said...

Dean - think forward not today. MMS is certainly gaining traction. Mobile video calling didnt work in the past b/c of costs, availability and quality - this will change. Cell broadcast will come but that is early too. NFC will be a standard in 5-10 yrs on phone. I am surprised to see this short term thinking on a blog that is promoting Distruption.

Social apps and communication are the mobile scenarios that make money. There is no doubt in my mind that there is a role for video in real-time communication - its only a matter of time.

Not disagreeing that capture and upload may be a more popular scenario in the short term but I think there will be a role for both. The inherent mobile nature of the phone presents opportunities at the "point of inspiration" that the PC or the larger video camera can not provide.

Dean Bubley said...

Chris - I do think forward.

But I discriminate between those mobile applications/technologies that I think will more popular than expected (eg motion sensors in phones), those that I think are useless/overhyped (eg realtime P2P video), and those on which the jury is out (eg NFC).

MMS is slowly gaining usage as configuration and user experience improves and pricing falls. It won't get to more than 1% of SMS volumes, however, as you don't have 2-way conversations in pictures.

Videocalling costs aren't the limiting factor - it's the lack of use case, and a user experience that doesn't map onto user behaviour - eg a camera pointing up your nostrils if you hold the phone at chest height as most people do. (Credit Jag Minhas for that observation)

Samtex said...

I must admit that i hardly use half of the communication that is possible over my mobile. As before stated MMS not very often and the rest never but i feel that will change as the mobile internet gets cheaper which opens the world to applications such a skype and so on

Nokia Mobile phone

nicemandan said...

This has been in Europe for about 5 years! How far behind is the US!? I've had a phone capable of that for the last 4 years and only used it twice - nice gimmick, but essentially useless... unless you're deaf, because now you can use sign language on a phone.

Anyway, it'll never catch on, it didn't in Europe.

Anonymous said...

simple fact is, that people want to use mobile phones" to call and nothing more.