Portable Video is going to happen

5 posts / 0 new
Last post
Steven Jones
Portable Video is going to happen

I have had many heated debates over the past several years about whether portable video players, as successors to the immensely popular portable music/MP3 players, will ever take off. To be clear, I am on the "of course they will be popular - video is way more compelling than audio - these things will kick the crap out of music-only devices" side of the argument.

I just read a news story about how the PVP mfrs are having a hard time defining the marketplace and I understand why it is taking longer to materialize. But the way I see it, there is only one legitimate reason why portable video is tricky.

It is NOT because PVPs are bulky. The wildly successful portable CD players have always been and will continue to be more cumbersome to lug around, especially since you have to drag the media around separately!

It is NOT because the screens are too small. We have been gorging ourselves on PDAs, cellphones, and portable game machines like the GameBoy for years which proves that people will accept palm-sized screens.

It is NOT because of a lack of compelling video content. If you stack up all the popular video sources including movies, TV programs, music videos, video games, photos & home videos against audio-only content which includes music, books on tape, podcasts, and radio - there really is no contest. People will find the time to enjoy video if it is easily accessible. I know you can't jog or ride a bike while watching the Six Feet Under but so many more "downtime" opportunities exist for video: how about while you are waiting at the car wash, in the grocery line, at the doctor's office? Anyone out there commute on public transportation? Lunch break? Car trips? Weddings? Whale watching? Skydiving? The list goes on!

Which brings me to the only valid reason why it's taking so long. Video is more complex than audio. The physical file size of a 1/2-hour video segment is larger than a typical audio-only segment by at least an order of magnitude. This means more time waiting to download and/or transfer to the device - its not instantaneous and we as a culture like things to be instantaneous.

Then there is the tricky issue of encoding. There are way too many video formats in play so that getting your favorite content to play on your portable video player is overly complicated. What's missing is an "MP3" for video - a single format that everyone can learn how to say even if they don't know what it means.

As soon as the Jobs of the world get around to simplifying the transfer of video content from its original sources (DVD, cable/satellite provider, DVR, Internet, etc.) to the handheld device, we will see an enormous surge in the adoption of these devices. That's the only hurdle and it can be overcome.

Tie Guy
I both agree and disagree

I both agree and disagree with you. While it's true that making video portable is more complicated, I don't believe that's why is is not being accepted by the mass market.

Think about, portable video is not really that complicated. There have been dedicated portable DVD players for years, and they're cheap! It's not hard to slam a disc into a player and hit "PLAY" Okay, getting a TV show off of a TiVo and into a protable medium is trickier, so your argument applies in that case.

I believe the major hold up is attention. What do I mean by that? Well, follow me for a second:

I believe that portable audio has been successful because it does not require your entire attention span to enjoy. Think about all the things you can do while listening to music. Just about everything. You can walk down the street, work in the garden, play sports, ride a bike, rollerblade, and on and on.

Portable video only is only useful in situations that require no attention to the outside world. Sitting on the train, standing in line at the DMV, walking on a treadmill, etc. You can't walk down the street and watch your PVP without running into people and getting hit by traffic.

You see, the difference is that audio can be enjoyed in both active and inactive situations, while video is limited to inactive only. And like most Americans, periods of inactivity are becoming fewer and farther between.

I also think you've downplayed the experience a little as well. Just because people play games on a small screen doesn't mean that the experince is bad. The video experience is really the same, so where and when you watch makes a difference in terms of enjoyment. Gaming is different; it's presentation doesn't necessarily impact the experience or the level of enjoyment.

Steven Jones (not verified)
Here is a companion link to

Here is a companion link to patrick's overly compelling argument:


Lou Jacob
I completely agree, and

I completely agree, and although this may appear to be a 'hindsight' observation, it has been something I've felt strongly about for the past several years (I just didn't see your post until now).

I felt the same way about portable audio when I purchased my first MP3 player in 2000. (its one thing to be right about the trend, but another to be right about the timeframes -- as a close friend and colleague once said to me: "Don't confuse the trend with reality!"

My assessment of the "hurdle" is that its about the 'distribution network' and all that it entails. You've essentially said this, as its about:

1) content
2) ease of use
3) cost

And when all three of those come into line, (as it finally did with MP3 with the iPod and iTunes) the market will explode.

My only gripe, is that an innovator, I feel handcuffed by the DMCA. As an integrator and developer, my ability to innovate is constrained by the fact that I cannot "legally" develop tools which aid in quicker adoption of mobile video. As folks know, encrypted DVD ripping is illegal (even for personal use) and the same holds true for any video material (DirecTV, TiVo, etc) which is encrypted by the content provider.

We are not talking about illegal distribution of content here - we are talking about development of tools which makes it easier for the consumer to access and "mobilize" their content, without pulling out their hair.

Unfortunately, the constraints of the DMCA have inhibited innovators; this has not only retarded the acceptance of mobile video, it has put full power and control in the hands of the large corporations and content providers who have pre-arranged full dominance of this emerging market.

Meanwhile, I am enjoying many of my favorite shows (originally recorded on a DirecTV TiVo DVR) on my Archos AV500, while at the gym and while travelling, too.

Steven Jones (not verified)
Lou, good to have you in the

Lou, good to have you in the discussion. I personally want to thank you and the folks like you that are providing the early tools to help people like me understand and embrace the portable video experience. I know enough about video encryption, formats, codecs, etc. to know that I don't want to have to learn that to enjoy my movies and shows on the go.

I just had an interesting experience at the Consumer Electronics Show where some folks in the TiVo booth were showing off the ability to pull content off the TiVo box and sync it with your PSP and iPod. Trying not to hurt their feelings, I explained that, while this functionality would certainly be popular with folks like me, I had already been doing that for months with a great (actually better) software solution from TV Harmony. TiVo's solution won't be available till later THIS year!

But it is a great example of where the early innovators (TV Harmony) are helping the industry move forward and are proving out new ideas and paradigms for the mainstream crowd.

So keep it up Lou. I'm a big fan and supporter. Between the loudmouth consumers like me and the developers out there pushing the envelope, I'm sure we'll see this video thing come to fruition.


Connect With Techlore