During yesterday’s analyst/press briefing at Qualcomm’s headquarters, several top executives — including the president — discussed MediaFLO’s technology and general business model, but everyone was mum about projected income.
I tried. I asked three executives but no answer was forthcoming. I also took photos (see within the article) with Nokia’s two megapixel N90 camera phone.
MediaFLO in brief
Using a 6 MHz channel, MediaFLO is able to transmit 20 live channels of video, 10 channels of audio, about 800 minutes per day of short video clips (“clipcasting”) that can be downloaded and stored in phones, plus IP datacasting applications (e.g., a stock ticker on the phone).
That mix can be changed to, for example, increase the number of audio channels and decrease the number of videos.
Video can run at 30 frames per second and it takes less than two seconds to switch from channel to channel on the handset. The battery life for using MediaFLO is about the same as using a phone for voice, according to Qualcomm.
In the United States, MediaFLO will be offered by Verizon Wireless and the two companies are working together to develop content. Overseas, Qualcomm will play much less of a role as a content aggregator and, instead, focus on providing the platform.
U.S. MediaFLO content
Steve Altman, the president of Qualcomm (see left; digital zoom with .5 megapixel image), said during the briefing that it’s not too difficult to determine the type of content that will be offered in the U.S.
He noted that the basic video package would include, for example, a good sports channel, news channel and kid’s channel.
Altman said it will be more difficult, though, for Qualcomm and Verizon to figure out what non-basic programs subscribers will want to watch….and pay for, of course.
I asked Altman to provide some idea of the revenues that were expected but he said those numbers were confidential. He noted that MediaFLO would generate revenues from a variety of sources, ranging from content to chipsets in handsets to licensing fees.
Importance of MediaFLO
Trying to get a feel for revenues, I asked Rob Chandhok, vice president of engineering and market development for Qualcomm (see below; two megapixels), about the importance of MediaFLO to the company.
He didn’t answer directly, but Jeremy James, Qualcomm’s senior director of corporate communications, who was sitting in the audience, tried to place MediaFLO’s importance in perspective, albeit in a general way.
James said it would be useful to look at what Qualcomm had done and would be doing. For example, he noted that Qualcomm was prepared to invest up to $800 million in MediaFLO.
He pointed to Qualcomm’s purchase of Iridigm Display Corp., that would help, I assume, provide better displays for cellular phones — on which subscribers could view video.
Jeffrey Belk, senior vice president of marketing at Qualcomm (see below), said the company paid $38 million (in a Federal Communications Commission auction) for the rights to use nationwide channel 55 in the 700 MHz spectrum.
I asked Jeff how much money MediaFLO would generate. He said there are estimates, but no one really knows.
Will people watch?
After Chandhok’s presentation I asked him whether wireless TV would spark the purchase of cellular phones with larger screens. He said it would, and noted that the sweet spot is the QVGA screen.
Chandhok said that while VGA is, of course, better from a resolution standpoint, when you’re holding a small LCD a foot or two from your face, VGA is overkill.
My camera phone photos
I was sitting three rows from the front. The N90 is one of the better two megapixel camera phones and its images were okay, but I could have used an optical zoom!
I tried the digital zoom, knowing that digital zooming is generally pretty awful. I wasn’t disappointed.
As with many camera phone photos that are taken indoors, all the images were too dark in the “automatic” mode. Outdoor photos with good lighting typically a much better.
I cropped the photos a bit but I didn’t do any other editing. If I had simply enhanced the brightness, contrast and sharpness with an image editing program the photos would have been significantly better.
But I wanted to post the photos pretty much in their raw (not RAW) form.