Hollywood (and RIAA) seem to be behind the times when it comes to technology and potential new business opportunities. For years now PocketPCs are able to decode mpeg, divx and wmv videos full speed and yet we can’t buy movies in SD/CF format to watch while we waiting on that bus stop.Here are a few facts:
– There are over 30 million 300 Mhz+ PocketPC PDA users out there (and about 10-15 more million PalmOS ones with 300+ Mhz Tungstens).
– Any PDA over 300 Mhz is able to easily decode any Mpeg, DivX or WMV video at QVGA resolution (320×240). A carefully encoded h.264 video could also do wonders (smaller bandwidth needed, higher quality) as it scales very well from mobile phone CPUs to workstations and anywhere in between (PDAs).
– Using mp3 audio at 64kbps, stereo, 22khz and medium quality video encoding, DivX and WMV can easily fit a two hour movie on a 256 MB CF or SD card while h.264 video can support full quality for the same storage space!
– Medium quality video is more than enough on a 3.5″ screen, it looks very good in fact. It doesn’t look as sharp on a real desktop monitor, but on a 3.5″ LCD you can’t tell the difference.
– Using 32kbps, stereo mp3 audio and lower quality video, you can fit the same movie on a 128 MB card (however this wouldn’t sell as well even if the result is actually watchable).
– A cheap 256 MB read-only CF card costs $7 to OEMs today. A similar 256 MB SD card costs about $10. This means that Hollywood can sell its movies in SD or CF at around $19.99 and at $24.99 for newer titles. These are totally acceptable prices.
– Windows Media Player is included on most of these PPCs since 2002, but custom solution players could be developed, included in the same media as the movie itself with DRM support for both PalmOS and PPCs.
– ‘Pocket DVD Wizard 2005’ and ‘Pocket DVD Studio’ for PocketPC are ones of the *most-bought* applications on the PocketPC world (MMPlayer for PalmOS is in No13, mostly because most PalmOS users don’t have powerful models). And this doesn’t even count the users who rip & encode their DVDs manually. All this is the best proof that there IS a market, at least in the PocketPC world.
– Dedicated multimedia viewers (e.g. Archos) are too expensive (over $400) and require manual encoding of your DVDs too. Most of them don’t allow third party players to run, they are too incompatible between brands, they don’t support DRM (so Hollywood wouldn’t touch them), or don’t even have SD/CF slots! Very capable PocketPCs on the other hand can be obtained for less than $180 and have their full PDA functionality too, adding value.
Making the case for the idea:
Ripping a DVD at home manually takes 15 minutes. But encoding it back to DivX takes anywhere between 30 minutes and 2 hours depending the desktop PC’s speed that’s used. I don’t know about you guys, but in these 2 hours I could just sit on my couch and watch the movie on my 55″ TV instead of waiting for the encoder to get done.
But there are people who don’t have that kind of time, there are people who travel all the time, they spend time in airplanes, airports, trains and there are people who have no clue how to rip and encode movies, or don’t want to spend time and money on the ripping solutions mentioned above. These people are potential customers for movie titles on PDAs.
I was seriously thinking of using my new Axim X5 as a multimedia viewer for some of my DVD movies from my growing collection. But waiting and waiting and waiting for the encoder to finish on my 3 GHz P4-630 this afternoon (‘The Settlement‘, just 95 minutes of playback time took over 15+30 minutes to encode in low quality resulting in a 95 MB avi file), I now feel that it doesn’t worth my time. But if I was able to buy such a movie in a flash format, I wouldn’t hesitate and I am sure others wouldn’t either. The market is not huge but it has potential and I wonder if distributors have ever thought of the possibility, especially now that flash cards are so cheap to manufacture and h.264 becomes the new standard.