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Many network operators are rightly concerned about the amount of data that will be sent across their networks as more people want to download huge media files

Did You Miss It?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Did you go to Barcelona to attend the Mobile World Congress (which used to be known as 3GSM)? Did you see everything there was to see? I am sure you did not, because it is almost impossible to do so, and I am willing to bet that you missed one of the spiffiest new handsets at the show.


The handset I am referring to was being shown in the Spice Mobile booth. Spice Mobile is a wireless network provider in India and it is the first network in the world to commercialize this new phone that I predict will be a hot product.


What is it? First, it is unique in and of itself because in addition to the usual wireless phone features and bells and whistles, it has a built-in miniature blue laser optical drive in the back. When you insert a disc (about the size of a quarter), you get a full movie in DVD quality on the phone. You can also connect the phone to an external monitor―at the Spice booth, they had one hooked up to a 50-inch plasma TV set.


But it is not only the coolness of a phone with a built-in optical drive player that makes me believe this will be a winner around the world. Rather, it is the fact that Vmedia, the company that invented the technology, understood that technology itself is not enough to attract mobile phone vendors or network operators in today's market.


Thus, Vmedia set out to develop a complete ecosystem. The optical drive is made by Panasonic and the disks are made by Cinram, the largest optical disc manufacturing company in the world. Vmedia discs will be distributed through network operators' stores (thereby providing an additional source of revenue) and a major DVD movie rental company in the United States. The big news is that the day a movie is released for sale on DVD, it will also be released on this new miniature format.


Many network operators are rightly concerned about the amount of data that will be sent across their networks as more people want to download huge media files, and many of them favor what is presently known as side-loading, which generally means that music and videos are transferred to the wireless device from a PC and not over the air. With side-loading, the wireless device's functionality is enhanced yet the amount of data sent over the air is reduced. The Vmedia player goes well beyond side-loading. First, it has its own media, and second, phones being designed today all have the capability of connecting to an external screen, therefore the phones can serve as "DVD" players.


The battery life of the wireless device will be impacted by this drive, but according to Vmedia, it is extremely low-powered and the impact should be minimal. The phone Spice is releasing into the market in India is almost as thin as many phones already on the market and easily fits into a pocket or purse. The executive team that made this possible also worked on and perfected the first 2.5- and 1.8-inch hard drives, and now has come up with yet another breakthrough product.


As previously mentioned, and as important, Vmedia realized that a technology breakthrough in today's world may not be enough and decided to build an entire ecosystem around the drive by obtaining first-run content, massive duplication capabilities, distribution channels and a drive manufacturer. This means when a handset manufacturer and a wireless network operator decide to move forward with the product, all of the elements are in place and there is a sound business model for all concerned.


I believe that not only will this device find its way into many different phones in many parts of the world, it will also find its way into many other types of consumer devices. It is a natural because it provides the same quality as a DVD, it can store an entire movie that will sell for the same price as a movie DVD and it is a lot smaller. And you can bet that as the technology continues to advance, so too will both the storage capabilities and resolution of this product.


The lesson here for companies developing new products in the current market should be to examine the product your R&D folks are developing and then wrap that product in its own ecosystem. By following Vmedia's example, you will have a greater opportunity for success.


Andrew M. Seybold

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