Maybe Mobile, Maybe Not

It’s no secret broadcasters are getting into the mobile TV business a bit late in the game. Verizon, AT&T and Sprint have been pumping video into cell phones for quite a while now, though the quality of the transmissions is notoriously inconsistent. That won’t last. The mobile phone lads are building out next-gen networks as fast as their little capital legs will carry them. Handsets are evolving into something even Ian Fleming didn’t envision--touch-screen, hi-def record-and-playback, data storage, location-finding, radio receiver, music-playing ray guns.

They’re everywhere, or they will be. Hitachi released its 720p video Cam Wooo cell phone this week. Any product name with three consecutive “o’s” is going to have a shelf life. The MPEG-4 decoding Palm Pre is on deck for June ready to kick some iPhone tail.

Then there’s Google, the innocently baptized Borg that assimilated all other media forms in its path. Google realized moons ago it could not maintain a $400-plus share price on AdWords alone. No, that requires the licensing to intellectual property used by billions and billions of people and perhaps one day, extraterrestrial beings. And so there is Android, the iterations of which are quaintly named after pastry. Android Cupcake came out in April. Android Donut is on deck. Soon, there shall be Android Caramelized Flan Ring and all resistance will be futile.

Android is of course the operating system being developed for unlicensed devices. Unlicensed devices are of course those handheld walkie-talkie, boom boxy, TV dealy-bobs that the FCC said could be operated in white spaces. White spaces are of course those things that keep broadcast signals from turning into white noise.

Whatever the mobile DTV folks have in mind, it better be darn good. Without a really, really, really compelling and somewhat proprietary offer, mobile digital television will just be one more stream of content piped through an Android operating system.