Mobile phone growth key driver for videocasting

Mobile phone sales will exceed one billion handsets a year by 2009 as they become the most common consumer electronics device with 2.6 billion people worldwide using one by then, according to a survey by IT industry analysts Gartner published yesterday, says a Reuters report.

Many of these devices will be smartphones with big colour displays, hard drives with plenty of storage space, lots of memory and other features:

[…] The Gartner study also said so-called "smart phones," with robust features inherited from personal computing, are the fastest-growing category, with sales expected to exceed 200 million devices in 2008.

These are precisely the types of device that need to be available and affordable that will form a crucial part of the overall take-up-drive for new media communication such as podcasting and – the really big one coming up behind – videocasting. Music will be the primary initial driver, but audio and video are digital files, too, and it’s not hard to see the business potential.

Forrester Research sees the video trend very clearly. From their 5 July report Podcasting for Marketers:

Videocasting will be next — and it’ll be big. Convenience and portability are the drivers for reaching critical mass — and the mobile phone will be the device of choice. The rapid adoption of MMS-capable phones with color screens by the same consumers who are currently active podcasters is creating a dream opportunity for brands that need visuals. Portable video produced and screened by consumers is inevitable as they combine home video, file sharing, and wireless technologies with audio podcasting. Apple dominates in music — but videocasting could be an opportunity for Microsoft, given its strength in portable media centers.

That last comment is interesting, especially given much commentary in some mainstream media about Apple’s intentions re offering video alongside music and podcasts in its iTunes Store, and developing a video iPod as a story in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week speculates.

But, from the WSJ report:

[…] By adding video to iPods, Apple could help maintain the popularity of the devices, which have nabbed more than 90% of the market for hard-disk based music players. One threat may come from cellular phones as handset makers add increasingly sophisticated entertainment functions to the devices, including the ability to download music and video.

Whoever’s doing what, this is a tech area that is rapidly-changing and evolving. One to pay close attention to.

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