July 12, 2006
for All, Profits for None
You’re on a
You’re headed for a symposium on nuclear physics. Three seats away, you
notice a local man – early 40s, you would surmise – in a blue suit and a
yellow tie, watching CNN on his phone.
out Ultraman with the hip TV phone!
knows you’re watching him. He encourages this sort of thing. A quick
dart of his eye in your direction acknowledges, yes, it’s true, I’ve got
the latest and the greatest. How do you get business news on your
phone? You do get business news on your phone, don’t you? Ah. I
see. Text summaries. Good for you! That’s so cute. I’m watching
TV on my phone. I’ve got a crystal clear picture and impeccable sound.
day, everyone on the train will have a TV phone. But for now, it’s just
Ultraman, which is a problem for the people who provide TV broadcasts
via cell phones. Because Ultraman, jet-setter that he is, can’t buy
enough stuff by himself to allow advertisers a decent return on their
investment in Phone TV.
shipments of phone/TVs are less than one million, which puts its
viewership in the neighborhood of MSNBC on any given night. Pretty
miniscule. They don’t call it A Mess NBC for nothing. And since no
advertisers are going to pony up big bucks to reach an audience that
small – even if it is a bunch of Ultramen – the best-hope business model
in development is to find some way to conduct e-commerce via the TV
enticing, at least in theory, is the concept of e-commerce links that
would allow you to buy products you see while watching TV.
Say, for instance, you’re watching Laverne & Shirley, and Laverne
is drinking her favorite beverage – milk and Pepsi. As Laverne takes a
sip, and all the subway-riding world begins thinking to itself “oh how I
want that,” three icons appear on your TV phone. Buy Pepsi. Buy
Milk. Buy them pre-mixed. Yum!
say you’re watching 24, and Jack Bauer is just about to blow away
an evil terrorist swine with his Smith & Wesson. Link! You know,
honey, we really should have a Smith & Wesson. Order now! E-commerce via
Phone TV is so fast, it could be at your house before you are. Then you
can start shooting the neighbors with expert precision.
curious conundrum in the digital age – technology without a business
model. You mean, if something is way cool and everyone but everyone
would want to have one, I might still not make any money off it?
That’s hard to believe. Because we’ve never experienced a phenomenon
where people went hog wild investing in technology just because it was
cool, then went a considerable distance down that road before some
annoying twit at the back of the bus decided to ask, “How are we going
to get people to pay for this?”
like that has ever happened. Not this week anyway.
This is why
I don’t fear the future emergence of the supercomputer that can monitor
everyone’s comings and goings, financial transactions, thought patterns
and food intake. Could someone build such a contraption? Sure. I just
sort of assume Bill Gates already has one.
would you make any money with it? I suppose you could load games onto
it, but unless you want to treat the game/mind-control bundling as a
loss leader, you’ve got to figure the Xbox market will be tough to
crack. You could try to sell it to ruthless tyrants like Kim Jong Il,
but his entire economy doesn’t generate enough wealth to pay for a
smoothie maker. Besides, there’s probably about enough electricity in
North Korea to run a contraption like this for about 49 seconds.
will never take over the world, at least not until it can generate a
profit for its creators without the help of cheesy sales reps and buyers
with cash to spend.
keep getting my sports scores – er, business news – in text form,
which does the job quite nicely, and isn’t as obvious during weddings
and stuff. Once Ultraman is joined by hundreds of millions of other
Phone TV viewers, then maybe advertisers will start driving the
concept’s economic viability. Until then, most subway riders will just
have to tap on their laptops like their grandfathers used to do.
© 2006 North Star
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