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Content Prophets: Floating Balloons for Wireless Content

In the United States, streaming audio is likely to be the first to hit the market, says Roger Gulrajani, senior director of wireless in the consumer appliance division at RealNetworks. He adds that the Dick Tracy-style videowatch isn’t really ready yet — phones, after all, are well designed to give users access to mobile audio.

Nevertheless, a limited range of content is available now to U.S. users, most of it being text, though downloadable audio and video are also available. Launch Media has announced a deal to provide text-based content, like music news and concert information — not streaming audio — to Palm devices. But Launch, like other content companies, is working to beef up its wireless plans. Chief executive officer David Goldberg says he has been impressed with the video quality in the Launch Japan streaming trials. He believes the company will eventually be able to sell television ads inserted in the video. But he warns that the revenue for wireless content providers will be insignificant in the short-term. "It’s more about being ready when the bandwidth is available, at this point," says Goldberg.

Tercek from PacketVideo says that good examples of wireless content are traffic information and financial news, which could save people time and money. To push its wireless technology, PacketVideo has compiled a content showcase at www.pvairguide.com to test content. Although the guide can be accessed only via a wirelessly connected PDA, PacketVideo also offers downloadable videos on the site.

Traffic information provider Traffic 411 is one company participating in the guide. Lisa Osburn, founder and chief executive officer, is keen on wireless distribution, but says that the company will first make audio streams accessible via telephones to provide on-the-go access.

Sports are another example of high-demand content that strikes at the heart (and occasionally the wallet) of the viewer. Youbet.com facilitates the watching of and wagering on horse races around the world. According to Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Ron Luniewski, You bet.com facilitated nearly $100 million in wagers last year, while streaming live from 18 racetracks every Saturday. And by streaming the races to wireless devices, Luniewski feels that the company will be able to expand its demographic into the largely untapped Gen-X and Gen-Y markets.

Tercek agrees that a wireless application offering sports highlights or time-delayed game replays would be in high demand. But he says the cost of securing the rights for content will likely limit such applications to major entertainment players, or to carriers that want to have exclusive content for their customers.

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