Mobile industry executives from several companies spoke about the challenges of mobile video at this morning's Open Mobile Summit in San Francisco. On hand were Anthony Melone, CTO of Verizon Wireless, Bob Bowman, CEO of MLB.com and Hossein Moiin, CTO of Nokia Siemens Networks. The panelists, moderated by Ann Winblad, Managing Director at Hummer Winblad Venture Partners, talked about mobile video, streaming challenges, the future of LTE/4G and, perhaps most importantly, how are businesses going to charge for all this mobile video content?
Pricing Your Apps
It's clear that people are going to compartmentalize their consumption more and more these days, said Bowman of MLB.com. They want apps. And when it comes to pricing apps, you can't give the consumers too many choices or they walk away. Even three choices may be too much. "But we're not sure, by the way, if we're pricing it right. But we do believe in charging." Premium content like theirs should not be free, said Bowman.
Nokia Siemens' Moiin thought differently about the simplicity of pricing. Tiers like 5 GB, 10 GB, etc. may not be so simple for the end users. Maybe pricing should be flexible - we could be charging based on how busy the network is at the time. We could look towards the business model for aviation, for example, when determining pricing.
Streaming Video Challenges
Bowman then talked about live streaming challenges with MLB's content. Technology, including adaptive the bitrates, optimizing the content for the mobile devices and working with mobile partners was important, he said. Apple and MLB need to work together on optimizing MLB's content for mobile. "Our customers are their customers," he said. He later said that his company ran into problems with content deliver provider Akamai all the time, but pointing fingers at them using harsh service-level agreements (SLAs) wouldn't have helped the situation. "We're going to fail as often as they," and it's better to work together to address the challenges.
Bowman also mentioned that MLB.com codes in both Flash and HTML5 because it needs to reach all its fans. But handset manufacturers need to get involved with video optimization as well, he said.
The Verizon iPhone and the Apple Experience
Winblad then asked Verizon's Melone if we were oversetting user expectations when talking about the rumored Verizon iPhone. While Melone wouldn't, of course, comment on its existence, he said that, at some point in time, customers will demand a better experience. Customers shouldn't have to think about, "can I use this app now?" That's a poor experience.
MLB's Bowman responded to a question about the open mobile platforms out today, like Android - do they like them? "We have to be on all the platforms," he said. "We have to be everywhere the fans are." However, there are challenges in developing for other platforms, each with their own rules, he explained.
As for Apple? "We enjoy the Apple experience, Bowman said. "They have strong views. Sometimes, we don't agree with them," he said, but what MLB likes about Apple is that they do try to control environment and limit piracy. Their rules are straightforward.
Verizon's Melone talked about LTE mobile networks and how they will facilitate the multi-screen experience. Getting video on a mobile device involves everyone from an app developer up to the network provider. But while mobile video will become more popular, the wireless environment will not replace the wired TV experience, he stated.
Melone also spoke about mobile video calling, like Apple's FaceTime. "I think absolutely that video calling, video conferencing...will work in an LTE-type network." Those apps will be representative of what the network can do, he said.
An audience member asked about Verizon's stance on network neutrality and how Verizon will charge for video content on its network. "It's safe to say that the tools that will be available to us in our 4G/LTE network, will enable us to shape that experience in a way that makes sense to our customers, our business and the regulatory environment," said Melone. But he couldn't give specifics on that subject at this time.