What's the mobile video hold up?

Mobiloscenti say devices are robust and networks ready, but carriers and content producers are gumming up the works.

BOSTON--Device and network technology is not holding back mobile video, it's the money makers who can't agree on what to do with it.

At least that was the consensus among several mobile video leaders, including Nokia and MobiTV, at Red Herring East's Wednesday panel on mobile video.

"From a network and device perspective we are ready," said Ray Derenzo, vice president of business development for MobiTV, one of the leading mobile video distributors.

Proprietary nuisances, on the other hand, are an issue.

"It's all about the open platform," said Nokia research director Jamey Hicks, who seemed to be positioning Nokia as the anti-Apple when it comes to third-party applications.

Nokia plans to accommodate Internet service providers and mobile application developers as much as it can, said Hicks.

"We look to see what we need to have in the hardware to anticipate something like YouTube that wasn't on the horizon two years ago...We are trying to get to the PC model so that others can put their apps on it," said Hicks.

Another issue is revenue. Until carriers and content producers come to terms with how mobile video is going to be monetized and make it easier to access, mobile video will continue to stagnate with mainstream users.

A pay-per-use or subscription model has been the way for video distributors to share revenue with carriers and content producers. But television networks, who never envisioned their content on phones, have been slow to figure out how to clear rights and charge for advertising. As advertising is introduced by distributors, consumers won't want to pay for a subscription, and advertising will have to absorb the cost, according to Mark Pascarella, president of Gotuit Media, a mobile advertising deployment company.

"BREW (binary runtime environment for wireless) is open but highly proprietary and highly controlled. My expectation is it's going to get worse before it gets better. The carriers are going to get burnt. And when you get burnt you tend to pull way back, instead of figuring out how to grab it," said Simeon Simeonov of Polaris Venture Partners

"The biggest issue at mobile is not quality of service, but the awareness of consumers to find and purchase product. Not as much as a tech device capability issue, as a confusion within the operators as how video is important," said Derenzo.

Part of the problem around mobile video adoption is that the public thinks mobile video technology is an overnight sensation like YouTube. That perception wrongly causes people to think that the technology is new and experimental and they shy from trying to use it, said Simeonov.

The panel criticized carriers and content producers for not doing enough to dispel this and create more confidence.

"These are not coming out of nowhere, people have been working on this for years," said Simeonov.

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