2006 is the Year of Portable Video (Page 1 of 2)
This is admittedly a hastily written article but I felt I needed to get some thoughts down and share with the TechLore community. As we turn the calendar to start the new year, it occurs to me that 2006 just might the Year of Portable Video. I know, I say that every year but there are more viable options than ever before and consumers - having gotten comfortable with cameras in their phones, making calls over the Internet, and time-shifting TV - are finally ready to take a real look at video on the go.
I am going to cover the different portable video alternatives that are already on store shelves as well as some that are right around the corner. By the end of 2006, all of these will be available to the mainstream consumer and it is the sheer size of this list that makes me confident that this next year will indeed be the year that we look back on as the beginning of widespread acceptance, if not adoption of portable video.
Portable DVD PlayersThis is so obvious, it is almost too easy to overlook but there is clear that manufacturers are racing to bring the price of these devices down so far that they can begin dispensing them in grocery store coin-op machines (next to the gumballs and tattoos). The best thing about portable DVD players, of course, is that they let you leverage the growing collection of content that you are likely accumulating for your home. The bad things are that you need to drag around a rather bulky device that only serves a single purpose, doesn't sport a generous battery life, and the DVD media itself is somewhat fragile.
Video for Video GamersAnother somewhat obvious solution has video piggybacking on the immensely popular portable video game players. Nintendo and Sony dominate the handheld gaming market and both are pushing pre-recorded video content for their mainstream players. Nintendo GameBoy/DS owners already have a choice of mostly kid-focused content including popular animated titles that extend the cartoon TV lineups. Sony has crashed onto the scene early last year with UMD-based movies and more recently, TV shows to be played back on the PSP. Despite how easy it is to criticize these players as sub-standard for a true movie-like experience, there is no denying that the formats are working and people are buying into this approach.
Portable DVRsThere devices go by many names including portable/personal media players and portable digital players, but they all share one primary purpose: to take pre-recorded TV content that was originally delivered to your house with you on the road. First TiVo and ReplayTV helped change the perception of when you could watch TV (i.e. time-shifting) and so the next obvious question was, how can I change where I watch it? The short answer is to (electronically) pack it up take it with you.
There are way too many options for "getting content off your TV" and onto these devices to discuss here but the portable DVR companies have been constantly improving the techniques for storing TV programs on what is essentially a glorified, portable hard drive and playing it back in your hand after you leave the house. These players have been around for several years but are still slightly out of reach for the tech-novice. However, the idea is sound and will soon be as familiar to commuters and vacationers as in-car navigation and text messaging.
Streaming Video to Cell Phones
By now you have probably heard of next-generation mobile phones that go beyond sharing pictures online or downloading new ringtones to allow consumers to play music on their devices. It's not an obvious extension of the cell phone like email or SMS perhaps but with the explosion in the adoption of portable MP3 players, it quickly became apparent to most users that carrying around fewer devices is preferable. Cell phone manufacturers listened and have begun to cram more features into their new models and are creating new partnerships with the music companies to offer both streaming music and music playback from files stored directly on the device.
What's next of course is video. The major carriers in the US have launched "mobile TV" campaigns that take advantage of the new high-speed data networks being rolled out across the country. Video requires much more bandwidth than audio to deliver and new handsets need to be created that can play back the content so this isn't necessarily going to be in your hands right away. But if you live in a major metropolitan area, you can already enjoy television content on your mobile.
A word of caution here. Like all new technologies, the first generation of streaming cell phone video isn't necessarily going to knock your socks off. Don't expect 150 channels of high-definition content available all the time - that's probably more like 2007!