2005 was the year we collectively dipped our toes into the portable media pool. Sure, there were many product introductions, price drops, and business mergers across the board but a mobile revolution was brewing.
On the hardware side, Apple’s video-capable iPod obviously grabbed most of the headlines. I wasn’t overly impressed with the technology, but Apple put portable video into the palms of the common folk. Neither the Creative Zen Vision nor the Archos AV500 are perfect, but they’re good examples of full-featured portable media players that debuted in 2005.
Two media devices, both sexy, did impress me in 2005: Sony’s PSP and the Slingbox. I’m not much of a gamer, but the world has never seen this sort of graphical power and luscious display in such a compact form factor. Combine that with WiFi and a low $250 price point — the PSP’s a winner. Sony’s ongoing firmware/functionality updates earn them brownie points. The Slingbox could be the slickest device you don’t need. By leveraging your home video sources and your broadband connection, SB allows you to view your content on any Internet-connected PC worldwide. Not only did they introduce the place-shifting category, they nailed the functionality on their first try.
On the content end of things, iTunes video and TiVoToGo were the big news items of 2005. While both services have short-comings, it’s the first time mainstream consumers have had access to portable content outside that travel DVD player for the kids.
What about 2006 you ask? We’ll see mobile media go mainstream as Apple commits to a full-fledged videoPod and expands their content offerings. TiVo and others will assist by automating content acquisition, conversion, and synchronization. 2006 will be the year video-on-demand, via broadband, gains a toe-hold… Microsoft, Apple, and TiVo will experiment with renting movie content for PC, TV, and portable playback — maybe Netflix will even find partners and recommit. Akimbo will be the odd man out, either moving solely to software and service (see ReplayTV) or being acquired. XM will offer video, but no one will care.
As with 2005, in 2006 microdisplay prices will continue to plummet and confusion will continue to shroud CableCARD. On a personal note, TiVo’s stand-alone dual tuner HD DVR is overdue in my living room… will I get some love in 2006? I’d also like to see Verizon’s FiOS TV in my neighborhood — Comcast has absconded with enough of my cash. Will local and regional jurisdictions step up to the plate and issue Verizon licenses to operate?