Editor's Corner: Live from CTIA: Music, Movies, and Microcode

I'm writing to you live from the show floor at CTIA Wireless IT 2005 in San Francisco. The show has only just begun, and there were already several interesting presentations from the TV and media companies. Van Toffler, president of MTV Networks Music/Films/Logo Group, mentioned that his company is looking forward to creating short videos between 30 seconds and 2 minutes in length for mobile devices. He described it as a return to MTV's roots, since the network was once well known for its innovative promotional clips and shorts that ran between music videos. Fox TV, meanwhile, has also announced a push for short mobile videos ("mobisodes") and continued support for text-messaging campaigns. Lucy Hood, head of Fox's Mobile unit, said over 1 million people have downloaded ring tones and wallpaper based on the hit show Family Guy. One theme I noticed across several presentations is that the big media companies seem to be approaching mobile video as a promotional vehicle rather than a new medium for content.

Mobile video isn't the only hot topic at CTIA. Despite the less-than-stellar reaction to Motorola's iTunes-compatible phone, lots of people are talking about full-length mobile music. Motorola is clearly bitter that its ROKR did not live up to the immense hype preceding its release. Motorola CEO Ed Zander recently declared "screw the nano," a reference to the mostly positive reviews for Apple's latest iPod, which was announced on the same day as the ROKR. Steve Jobs, meanwhile, isn't even sure that full-length mobile music downloads are possible in the current environment. "The network providers will charge a lot to download music to a mobile -- maybe $3," he told MacWorld. Michael Nash from Warner Music said we should let the market decide how much mobile music should cost, but that sounds to me like an excuse to charge an arm and a leg to early adopters who will download tunes simply for the "cool factor."

Nash challenges the idea that 99 cent songs are the "11th commandment," but I'm not so sure he's right. iTunes succeeds not just because of the famous Apple interface -- frankly I find the iTunes Music Store interface rather kludgy -- but because a buck a song is an attractive deal. Few people will pay three or four times that to hear a song on their phone. Besides, as Apple's iPods continue to shrink in size, convergence becomes less of an issue. Why not just carry a phone and a music player? - Eli

P.S. If you will be in San Francisco Wednesday night, please join me and the rest of the Fierce team for a rockin' party at the ThirstyBear Brewery. There will be good food and drink and Carlos Santana's bandmate Julius Melendez will be providing the music. Info and RSVP