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Mobile Video in 2011

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2010 was an amazing year for the mobile industry. We saw the launch of hot new devices such as the iPad, HTC EVO 4G, iPhone 4, Droid X, and the Chrome Notebook. Apps exploded way beyond being an Apple-only feature and have changed the face of how content is delivered to gadgets. And the launch of fresh services and operating systems has given us more choice, better competition, and ultimately a better viewing experience for the end user. So let’s take some time to dig into the stories from 2010, share some of the winners and losers, and then look forward to what 2011 holds in store for mobile video. The radical shift of how we view video on mobile devices is only just beginning.

Over the past 5 years, I have reviewed mobile devices, phones, and gadgets, and every year it becomes harder and harder to define the characteristics of a mobile device. The lines between phones, computers, and TVs are beyond blurry and have made it almost impossible to label some devices. For that matter, enterprise and consumer services for mobile video have so much overlap it’s hard to tell whether device manufacturers are targeting Fortune 500 companies, mommy bloggers, or both. For the purposes of this article (and my own sanity), I have applied the following criteria to narrow the field for devices and services. 

A mobile device or service is the following:

• Portable: If you can take it with you wherever you go and not look like an uber-geek, then it makes the cut. So attaching those handles to your Alienware Area-51 desktop computer tower does not make it a mobile device. All phones, most tablet devices, and even a few netbooks and notebooks would make the cut as being a portable video device. If your app or service runs on this device, you are portable as well.

• Connected: If you can connect to the internet and download or live stream video, then it makes the cut. The crossover is immense, so we will see phones with Wi-Fi and netbooks with 4G service built-in, but access is the final key. Interacting with online video means being connected at all times.

• Multitalented: To survive in this age of creativity, you have to be able to create and consume video on your device. The single-focus devices will not survive in the mobile marketplace, so everything we will talk about today needs to be able to handle the input and output of video.

 One final note on the definition of mobile: It will change. Probably even before 2011 is over, we will be discussing how our gadgets have redefined this category. The most exciting things in mobile are just around the corner, so be prepared for uncertainty.

Mobile Phones 

A few years ago, if you wanted a mobile phone, you went down to your local carrier store, picked out a phone from its lineup, and went on your way. Smartphones with video varied from service to service: Carriers had their own video services and operating systems that made watching video less about the user and more about revenue. 2010 was a revolution in video for mobile phones. More and more users chose their device first and then selected a carrier. Google launched its Nexus One Android phone in its online store in what was seen as direct competition to mobile providers. Even though it didn’t last 6 months, Google started a trend that will continue to be felt through the mobile world this year. Last year was all about more choices, better devices, and easier ways to watch and capture video.

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