According to a Reuters report published by ZDNet News, the market for mobile devices that are dedicated to the playback of video isn't getting much traction. The story quotes one manufacturer (Kinpo Electronics) from the Computex trade show in Taiwan as saying "Many people have come to ask about [our portable video player], but actual orders are very few....Prices are high, so buying interest is a little weaker." Where portable video will get its best traction in these early days, according to the report, is in all-in-one devices that offer PDA and telephone functionality. Sasy the report, "Analysts say it is easier to persuade customers to shell out $400 to $800 on a fancy mobile phone with PDA and media player functions than to tempt them to pay a similar price and watch movies on a screen the size of a business card."
It is this less talked about dynamic of the mobile media market that holds the key to what I've been calling the media platform monoculture. It basically works like this. If the early adopters and publishers of mobile video put most of their focus on a device (like a phone) with a radio in it, then that puts the cellco's in charge. You must enter one of the cellular walled-gardens to get the video, and when you do, it will be according to their rules, not yours. Bob Frankston calls this an orifice of the rear egress type, and, according to Frankston's account, Steve Jobs is no fan of the control that the telcos have over mobile users at the Wall Street Journal's "D" conference.
As long as the cellco's are in charge, then the mobile video platform that rises to the top is the one that ends up with the most deals with the cellcos. This is primarily by inclusion of the player technology in the devices or by distribution deals whereby content authors and multimedia infrastructure providers pay for a presence on cellular networks (are the cellco's the new cable providers?). Microsoft obviously understood this principle early on since today, it's almost impossible to lift a stone at the cellco/multimedia intersection without finding one or more Microsoft-related deals in place. I've referred to this phenomenon is the Microsoft media juggernaut.
No other player in the mobile media space comes remotely close to the penetration that Microsoft has achieved when it comes to criss-crossing the globe with its multimedia tracks. Today's Reuters story just confirms what I've known all along: that as much as the manufacturers of dedicated devices (eg: MP3 players) are succeeding today, that tomorrow, their lack of penetration into the always-on, always-connected market will come back to haunt them.