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Monday, September 25, 2006

Look past downloads to the pre-loaded video card

Today's announcement of a chipset for low end mobile phones from Agere Systems has a little bit more to it than just a product story. The X125 chipset allows a full phone to be built for $30, or $50 for one with a better screen that plays videos. This is key, as it brings this capability into the low end market.

This opens up a huge market, not for downloads, but for providing pre-loaded content on microSD cards.

The density is now sufficient for a full feature film on a 512Mbyte card (QVGA resolution, 25 frame/s) that is affordable - there are even money off deals that could be done to reduce the net cost of the card to zero. There is plenty of content around (perhaps the 6 best episodes of Coronation Street or any soap opera would be a key seller), and one card maker in particular already has the digital rights management, content protection and even routes to retailers that the studios need.

Is this coming now? Too right it is!

In October Disney is launching its Mix Max personal digital media player for kids, which will use, you guessed it, digital media cards for playing full-length movies, digital music, TV shows and viewing photos. The new gadget will be priced at less than $100.
"With the Disney Mix Stick, we proved that kids were ready for digital music," said Chris Heatherly, head of global electronics at Disney's consumer products unit. "The plug-and-play experience also proved to be a winning feature for parents who welcomed the idea of not having to download music for their kids."
SanDisk is the major supplier of SD and microSD cards, and has both DRM technology and deals with retailers already to sell its cards for phones and digital cameras. It has already been experimenting with pre-loaded content, shipping a Rolling Stones album earlier in the year.

It has also recently bought a company that specialises in low cost one time programmable memory - now that starts to get very interesting for your protected content.

These content deals are in the pipeline, says Pedro Varga, director of mobile entertainment at SanDisk, and they have many different routes to market, from branding the card with the content to co-branding. And it's not just video - the X125 also includes a Java engine running on an ARM926EJS processor, and just brought movies, video and games a whole lot closer.

This is the kind of video that was running on the reference platform, from a hard drive rather than a card.

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