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Mobile TV meets GPS on new Motorola device

Motorola introduced its new Mobile TV handset at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona yesterday. The DH01n is a pocket sized device that combines a personal media player with advanced navigation capabilities, including 2D or 3D map views and voice-activated directions. ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK tries it for size …

‚Mobile TV is an emerging service that is going to happen. It’s not if, but when.”

Those are the confident words of Navin Mehta, vice president of Mobile TV and Applications Services, Home & Networks Mobility, Motorola, as he unveils his company’s first Mobile TV handset at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

Navin Mehta discusses Motorola’s Mobile TV strategy

while the device in question lurks among the refreshments

The Motorola Mobile TV DH01n is a handheld device that looks more like a Nintendo DS Lite than a Motorola phone, which immediately begs the question: what else is packed in there?

A quick examination of the device reveals two side wheels and one corner button that give access to a mobile TV set, a GPS map navigation device, and a digital photo album. The options exist for watching stored video, video-on-demand and user-generated content.

I watch clips from the James Bond movie, Casino Royale, which are ideal to show off the quality of the widescreen LCD display and the stereo sound. I slip the device into my pocket ‚ purely to test how easily it fits into my pocket, you understand – but as I head for the door I am politely called back. Sheesh, that never happened to Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible. So it may not be invisible, but it slips easily into a pocket, which you can’t say about wall-sized plasma TVs ‚ yet.

That also neatly set the scene for Mehta’s rationale for the device: ‚Two consumer behaviours are driving Mobile TV. Firstly, taking the convenience of what they have on the Internet and TV and taking it mobile. This is not prime time broadcasting but ‘my time’ casting, any time and any place. And secondly, the need to locate where they are going when they are moving.‚

The Motorola Mobile TV DH01n : I want my soccer and I want it live and I want it now…

That doesn’t mean you will be watching your choice of channels on Mobile TV tomorrow, though. There are still many hurdles to cross that are out of the hands of the manufacturers.

‚Mobile TV is spanning two industry segments: The broadcasters who own the content: and the consumers of the content, but from the mobile operators’ point of view,‚ says Mehta. ‚Sometimes, one of the factors that it depends on is not the technology used to deploy it but the cooperative relationships that exist between these two segments that are not used to working together. The structures created in this value system will have a much greater impact on the timing of Mobile TV than the technology.‚

Mehta foresees 2008 being a year of Mobile TV trials and testing of different standards by networks.

‚It’s a very fragmented market, so 2008 will be one of trials. There are 25 to 35 trials taking place, most of them at different stages of technology. There is no clear-cut winner when you look at the technology. Nobody knows who will win, and there are no guarantees of winners. It reminds me of old days of VHS and Betamax. VHS had the ecosystem of manufacturing and distribution even if it wasn’t superior technology. The players that match up better will be the winners.‚

The early experience in South Africa was not very encouraging for the networks, with Vodacom wrestling with pricing models and MTN with its positioning. Neither saw significant take-up.

‚We believe the demand is there, based on commercial launches in Europe and trials throughout the world, and we believe consumers want the service,‚ says Bilal Saleh, EMEA director of applications and mobile TV services at Motorola.

Bilal Saleh at the Mobile World Congress

Saleh says that business models are still being shaped, but that operators are meanwhile putting real money behind it. Regulatory issues are also being finalised, because of the broadcast license required, as is digital rights management ‚ an issue in most digital content areas.

‚The building blocks exist, but the question is what the final shape will look like. There is consumer demand for this service and it’s up to us, the industry leaders, to figure a way to bring this service to the masses at the best possible price. The set-top box is an entrance into the home, but this can be used to make content mobile.

‚Our business strategy is to straddle those two segments and their needs: broadcasters and operators. They eventually need each other. Our ecosystem is about how to manage those two segments and how to bridge that gap and how to make them both succeed.‚

Gadget asked Mehta to sketch out Motorola’s roadmap for Mobile TV.

He replied: ‚To increase the user experience and – without announcing anything now ‚ the next one could be touch screen capabilities. So more and more enhanced features and functionalities, centred on video. We believe video will be the focal point going into the future.‚

The Mobile TV DH01n also supports:

· High-quality live digital video broadcast over the DVB-H standard

· 90 minutes of video on a 256MB card

· Automatic channel scan and channel listing

· Personal content like video, music and pictures on SD/MMC cards

· Recording, pausing and playing back live TV signals with secure memory card support

· Four hours of playback time.

For more details on Motorola’s Mobile TV solutions, visit their Mobile TV sub-site.

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