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Time Has Come Today: Mobile Video Year in Review

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The 176x220 screen was bright and decent for most TV or video content in a 3:4 aspect ratio. Navigating the menus was annoying, and there was a weird multi-use touch button that took some getting used to. Overall, though, it was the best live television experience I have had on a mobile phone.

Nokia N95—Best for Recording
If the iPhone is one of the best devices for watching video, then the N95 is one of the best mobile devices for capturing video. Several of my friends received some of the early test models before its U.S. release in April 2007. Father of videoblogging Steve Garfield (www.stevegarfield.com) has done extensive testing of the device and declares it one of his winners for 2007. He even developed a workshop on videoblogging in 5 minutes with the N95. Robert Scoble, former video blogger for Microsoft and PODTech, has been using his N95 to record CEO interviews, product demos, and conversations with wonderful results. So what is it about this device that makes it a 2007 winner for capturing video?

First, the quality of video that you can capture with this device is quite incredible. It can record videos in MPEG-4 at 640x480 resolution at up to 30 frames per second. Mobile phones have traditionally captured video that is pretty cruddy and only can be tolerated in small bites online. The Carl Zeiss optics also upgraded the quality of equipment built into this smart phone and made for great still photos along with video capture.

The next thing that makes this a clear winner is the ability to upload video online with Nokia’s built-in web browser and Wi-Fi integration. Not only could I shoot a video with great quality, but I could also upload that video to my YouTube account instantly. The speed of the process from video capture to sharing it with others makes this a killer phone. One of the other exciting features that N95 users started using in the second half of 2007 was live video streaming from their phones over the web. We will talk a little bit about some of those services in a moment, but websites like Qik and Kyte made for an interesting tandem with the Nokia N95. Hands-down, this is the winner for recording, sharing, and streaming videos from your mobile phone in 2007.

Losers: Devices
Any Phone With a Square Screen
We have been programmed our entire lives to watch videos on a 4:3 or a 16:9 screen. Our televisions and computers all seem to have these screens, so why not our phones? The traditional candy-bar-style phone and its ubiquitous square screen is not designed for watching video. With major moves to HD and widescreen formats, watching video will only become harder on these 2"x2" blocks of space.

2007 was the breakthrough year for widescreen format mobile devices, and I hope this design trend will continue. Woe unto you, device manufacturers, if you keep making square screens and forcing us to watch small video clips on even smaller areas of the screen. This last year saw quite a few mobile devices trying to force video onto tiny cubes of pixels, but hopefully 2008 will see more widescreen devices come our way.

Winners: Services
If 2007 was any indication of the future, mobile video will continue to expand rapidly, and we will need more content to fulfill the voracious appetites of consumers. While mobile service providers have made obvious forays into providing services to serve up videos, third-party companies were the big winners for 2007. One of the leaders in serving up video content on your mobile device is MobiTV, which provided some of the best content and delivery methods in 2007.

MobiTV—Best Paid Distribution Service
MobiTV had a banner year that started with one of the first full-length TV program licensing deals for wireless delivery. In March 2007, MobiTV and NBC/Universal inked a deal to deliver NBC’s shows to mobile phones. This meant you could buy your favorite individual shows like The Office, Monk, and Heroes on-the-go. They also offered several ad-supported shows that aired over MobiTV’s existing channel structure.

The deal did have its faults. The $1.99 price per show was a little steep considering you only had access to a given show for 24 hours, but this was a huge step in the right direction for the major networks.

MobiTV also entered into a partnership with Sprint TV late in the year to gradually take over Sprint’s foray into serving up video content on its mobile devices. Adding to Sprint’s already full lineup of viewing choices, consumers would now have access to all the content that MobiTV had been building on. ESPN, FOX, TLC, and a slew of other choices will kick up Sprint’s offerings and should provide a great end-user experience.

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