VPods, Mobisodes and Killer Applications for Commerical Entertainment

In our last review we discussed some of the ways that information is being packaged on the Internet to make it easier for users of knowledge to find and understand what they want. Now there is a growing trend toward doing the same with a variety of entertainment-oriented opportunities, with the benefit (for the high-tech companies anyway) of being able to bill their customers for each dip into their well of fun.

Video poding is one such element. But Mobisodes are not far behind as Killer Aps and Killer Games draw users back again and again for a taste of contemporary culture or the right to network through interactive participation.

Killer Aps and Killer Games are not what you might expect if you know the gaming industry, though you are not too far off the mark if you immediately think of the bang-boom shot and destroy attraction of most games. But Killer in this instance is a “technical consideration” that has more to do with the willingness of people to come back repeatedly to a particular site or to otherwise invest their resources into new software or hardware components because a new opportunity is so dramatic. WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) sites are particularly big on this attraction because people seem as willing to return repeatedly and pay over and over to play games, follow news events, get connected to evolving social networks, etc.

Japanese and Chinese media sources are beginning to turn real profits capturing this potential, pulling in massive elements of the world’s young users of “always on” capabilities.

But here in the US, two product-specific features are drawing more attention. The first being the use of “video poding,” and the second the introduction of “mobisodes,” or bite-size downloads of television and radio episodes designed specifically for cell phone and PDA viewers.

Vpoding: iPod Video (what Apple CEO Steve Jobs calls “the wide iPod) is the fifth generation of the core portable music playing device that has in less than four years evolved from a music and vocal device to a photo viewer and now to a video playback device. Apple’s sales of these objects went from about 380,000 to over 22 million units between 2002 and 2005, an impressive accomplishment with a product that has already had some 25 versions to work out its kinks. Still, it has begun to set the trend. While it is packaged as a way to expand the use of its own product download services (such as iTunes), the technical capabilities are following suit and will allow it to accept virtually any video compatible compression standard. Users who want to tune into the company’s game plan for snippets of what to watch will gain a good deal from this experience, and it may be worth the $300 to $500 price tag. More and more companies are also striving to make their own “Killer Aps” to expand the iPod as an all-purpose device. Downloading through other Apple products is very easy.

Mobisodes: If there is a true trend in the making for finding ways to get people’s money through portability, this one is on the fast track of possibility. Originally conceived of by Vodafone in November 2004, it made its media debut through an agreement with 20th Century Fox to make available special one-minute mobile telephone episodes of its hit television series “24.” Now this idea has come into much wider use with less attention being drawn to the name and more to the general commercialization of other broadcast potentials. Just this month (December 2005) NBC made its big splash with an announcement that it would have miniature episodes of Law & Order, The Tonight Show, Late Night with Conan O’Brien and Monk available at just $1.99 per snippet-available the day following their airing. (Free downloads are also available.) The TiVo-ization of this concept is probably the next great excitement that may help determine its final name and usefulness. But there is little doubt that it is generating excitement about how “cross platform” businesses can make repeat-money from people who want a little taste of everything. Right now you can find lots of teaser pieces to get you connected to the idea of serializing your enjoyment. But recognize that the trend is toward companies getting access to your accounts a little bit at a time.

In later versions of VirtuKnowHow we will detail some of the better sites for learning more about using these ideas with a bit more objectivity. Right now they are clearly driven by the profit-makers.

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