As if people driving and talking on their cell phones were not enough of a hazard, a consortium of cellular companies wants to develop standards to deliver video to your handset. Great. Now we can have a nation of distracted drivers who are talking on their phones while watching TV.
Under the aegis of the Open Mobile Alliance, five of the world's top cell phone manufacturers will collaborate on the mobile-broadcast specifications. Nokia
It would not be the first foray into mobile TV. Sprint
Mobile TV is not such a sure thing, though, even with the industry heavyweights the alliance has behind it. For instance, it is unclear whether people will want to watch their local football franchise on a tiny screen (being a Giants fan, it's hard enough to watch them at the stadium, let alone on a very small screen. But I digress.). There are also issues such as battery life, audio quality (90% of mobile phones don't offer stereo sound), and size. These are phones, after all, and generally you want to be able to slip them into your pocket or clip them to your belt.
The reason the companies want to try, even if they need to invest hundreds of millions of dollars to improve their technology, is because of the potential boon the mobile information/entertainment market represents. According to wireless consulting and research firm Alexander Resources, the mobile "infotainment" market will be a $7.2 billion industry by 2008.
Japan and South Korea already have mobile TV service, and it's expected that by the end of 2005 it will be available in Europe.
Undoubtedly people will be willing to pay to have streaming video on the cell phones. Heck, they pay to download ring tones to their phone. Yet, as with many things in life, just because we can do something doesn't necessarily mean we should.
Distracted drivers already are a major cause of accidents on the nation's highways. The New England Journal of Medicine found cell phones contributed to a quadrupled risk of collision. Adding reruns of Friends to the mix can only worsen the situation.
Still, the potential for the technology brings new meaning to the phrase "I want my MTV!"
Fool contributor Rich Duprey long ago found MTV to be unwatchable. He does not own any of the stocks mentioned in this article.