CES - Content discovery issues slow down mobile video takeup

Experts at CES said challenges around finding content has slowed down the potential for mobile video.

One reason that mobile users don't access more content from a mobile phone, like video clips, is because finding content is cumbersome -- but that should change in the future with intelligent network services, said one expert speaking on a panel at the Consumer Electronics Show.

Currently, smartphone users may not be accessing as much content or online services as they'd like because it's difficult to do so. "If to discover content you have to type in a URL, it's never going to happen," said Muzibul Khan, vice president of product management and engineering at Samsung Telecommunications America.

He suggests that using voice commands is the best way to look for content from a mobile phone. "Voice is the most natural medium," he said.

But Intrinsyc's CEO thinks that even voice command technology is rooted in the past. "We're talking about a paradigm for Web searching that was built for the PC," said Glenda Dorchak, who is also chairman of Intrinsyc.

While there may be a transitional period in the near future when voice or other improved search techniques are used for content discovery on mobile handsets, ultimately a more intelligent system will prevail, she said. In the future, a context-aware, server-driven system will emerge, where the network will forward relevant and useful content to users. The type of content that users will get will depend on their location and other preferences that they've set.

Key to that vision will be multiple radios in mobile devices working together. She imagines a time when a phone might have Wi-Fi, GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications), GPS (Global Positioning System), Bluetooth, satellite and WiMax, each finding and delivering information to end-users, possibly simultaneously. The phones will be smart enough to pick the most appropriate network for delivering the content, she said.

But running that many radios in a single device consumes power and requires sophisticated algorithms, so she suggests a few years will pass before it happens. However, the technology already exists to support part of that vision, such as converged cellular and Wi-Fi offerings that roam between the networks without dropping voice calls.

In the meantime, operators and content providers are working to figure out exactly how to deliver video to users now. The Tivo generation wants to be able to choose what they want to watch and when, said Jeff Finkelstein, multimedia product manager for Palm. "They don't want to wait for the headline news to start on the hour," he said.

However, companies building mobile broadcast TV networks around the world like DVB-H (Digital Video Broadcasting-Handheld) would likely disagree.

Easier sharing capabilities could boost mobile video use too. For about the past year and a half, statistics about how much video people watch online from their PCs haven't changed much, said Frank Barbieri, CEO of Transpera, a company that provides technology behind mobile video services. "Maybe in five years the phone could surpass the Web in terms of video snacking," he said.

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