Entertainment Content Rings Clear at CTIA; P Diddy and his Wireless World

By Joe Francica

CTIA-keynote Last week at GITA, I noted that the most prevalent technologies on display were mobility solutions for companies looking to push data into the hands of professionals in field-related jobs.This week at the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA) exhibition and conference in New Orleans, it is ALL about mobility: wireless communications, wireless gaming and entertainment, and wireless location-based services (LBS).

Steve Largent (photo at right), president and CEO of CTIA, welcomed the attendees by stating the phenomenal growth of the wireless industry.In 2004, 22 million subscribers were added; the 2nd highest growth year in history.But he cautioned that there were "clouds on the horizon of the wireless industry." He said that 1541 new laws to legislate the wireless industry have been passed and the average tax burden on the consumer has risen is just over 17% nationwide.Congress is talking about rewriting the Telecommunications Act.To remedy this situation, CTIA is starting an advocacy campaign to encourage consumers to speak out against any further legislation that restricts the expansion of the wireless industry.

Obviously there is still much excitement about cellular telecommunications especially with respect to myriad applications that are being pushed to a cellular handset.This is where the operators see the next leg of on the expansion curve to increase subscriber usage and maintain loyalty.The first keynote presenter, Sean Combs (photo at left), known better as the rap music entertainer, P.Diddy, drove this home quite succinctly.

Why is P Diddy at CTIA?
Mr.Combs explained that he sees cellular communications as a way to reach a larger audience with his music, his apparel, and his politics. Quoting from Marshall McLuhan, Combs said "the medium is the message," meaning that how you receive the message has a profound influence on the audience, and Combs is trying to understand the medium that fits the target audience for his entertainment enterprise.Combs said "Content is king and it can't all be king...You don't want just king; you want the 'King Kong content'." Bad Boy Entertainment, Comb's company will be a content provider and, more than that, a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO)."What my customers expect is the best way to find the best music, the sexiest clothes, the hippest technology," said Combs.

Devices that Touch the Consumer
While Sean Combs represents the content provider, the Kodak Company certainly represents one mechanism to capture the content.To that end, Daniel Carp (photo lower right), Chairman and CEO, of the Eastman Kodak Company followed Combs to the stage to "talk about your pictures." Carp said, "People treasure it (photos) because it is "your own content." He added, "can you think of any other product where people would run back into a burning building to get it?" He said that consumers want to be able to share their pictures anytime, anywhere.Kodak believes that wireless is a key element of Kodak's future.The company's EasyShare One Wireless camera is able to send photos over an 802.11 connection to printers or via email.

But Carp also stressed the realities about today's mobile imaging products and the changes needed to be able to catapult the market further.He mentioned a few facts as the current situation in mobile imaging;
  • 180 million camera phones were sold last year
  • 280 million to be sold by the end of 2005
  • There were an estimated 25-68 billion camera phone images captured in 2004 by the world
  • There were 70 Billion images taken by digital cameras
Carp mentioned a stark reality from some of his market research: the camera phone is a less than satisfying experience for the customer; 60% of consumers rarely upload pictures to computer and 70% rarely share pictures between phones.So, Kodak set out to correct the issues of image quality, battery life, ease of printing and camera ease of use. The result was the launch of EasyShare One and an effort to work closely with digital phone manufacturers to develop a modular sleeve to connect cell phone cameras to use the EasyShare One printer.Kodak's view is that if camera phones are not used as primary cameras that feature on the phone will fail without the ability to print directly.

And because content is truly king, the mega content providers are extremely interested in pushing their product wirelessly.What is one product with universal acceptance? Sports news.Hence, the third keynote speaker of the morning was George Bodenheimer (with Largent in photo below left), President ESPN Inc.and ABC Sports and Co-Chairman Disney Media Networks.In a recent survey of cable users, ESPN has been rated #1 in customer satisfaction for the fifth year in a row.More than half of all respondents named ESPN as their source for sports information.Bodenheimer also said that sports programming has been the key to acceptance of High Definition programming.ESPN forecasts strong growth for its wireless products.These products will include an ESPN gaming service and will continue to deliver localized scores, stats, headlines, plus interactivity.

LBS - "This is the year"
Where does that leave LBS? Unfortunately, none of the keynotes mentioned LBS in their presentations.However, the buzz on the exhibit floor was anything but."This is the year," said Walt Doyle, General Manager of MapQuest's Business Solutions group referring to the emergence of LBS applications.MapQuest was touting their "Find Me" service on the Nextel network.And according to those that I spoke with, nearly everyone was more enthusiastic that in the previous two CTIA's that I have attended.The business logic that assumes the value proposition seems to be aligning with the business models.From an ASP model to "white labeling" of location-based service middleware, whereby a business can configure a transaction-based model of location "hits" to a server running a location service.

There was a bigger presence on the floor of LBS providers.The applications are all similar in terms of a location finder or point of interest locator but in speaking to a senior executive at Sprint, the carriers are now positioned to bring them to market.Watch for the rollouts later this year in which both carriers and content providers take it to the consumers.

Published Wednesday, March 16th, 2005

Written by Joe Francica

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