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Friday, June 29, 2007

iPhone leads to a lot of nonsense

Today's launch of the iPhone has given analysts a rush of blood to the head. In my analysis for Electronics Weekly, it seems that being able to watch TV on mobile phones has all the makings of a new technology bubble. It will come in time, but the initial rush and over-optimistic figures point to a flush of expectation rather than reality.
Analysts are extrapolating from the success of Internet sites such as YouTube and the iPhone's predicted One Touch YouTube access to make predictions that are pure nonsense.
Recent presentations from ABI Research have predicted a growth in mobile TV subscribers from a million this year to 250 million in three years time. Were it to happen, this is a phenomenal growth rate and reminiscent of the worst excesses of the Internet bubble.
While the growth in YouTube subscribers is certainly true, there is no guarantee that people will pay to watch these videos over their mobiles. And pay they will have to, as this will be a revenue generating activity for both the websites and the operators.

Then there are predictions of HDTV on mobiles. The OMAP3 chip from Texas Instruments is adding this capability — and it may well be needed as showing a VGA video (or, worse, quarterVGA) on a large flatscreen looks horrible. But there are problems in downloading large HDTV clips to a phone, storing it on that phone, displaying it and then transferring it to a big display.
Does this mean that the phone will have to have an expensive mini-HDMI connector to plug into the back of your large LCD flatscreen display? Or are we waiting for an UltraWideBand wireless link to transmit a clip at 480Mbit/s over the two metres to the TV? If we are, we will have to wait quite a while for the technology in a form that can be integrated into both the phone and the TV.
There is a small but growing market for mobile TV — for viewing short clips of sport or news, for live action that you can’t wait to see and for boring trips on public transport.
These huge growth predictions do no one any favours and present the electronics business as a group of credulous fools who can be taken to the cleaners all over again by the financiers.

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