Podcasts over your mobile phone

A new startup called Pod2Mob has released a beta of their technology that runs on your home computer and streams audio files from your computer to your mobile phone using its data connection (so you wouldn’t pay for a phone call as long as you’re paying for the mobile internet connection most providers supply. Mine is TMobile and I pay them $19.95 per month for an all-you-can-eat data connection). Besides streaming from your home computer, you can also use Pod2Mob’s mobile server right from your mobile phone (at www.pod2mob.com/mobile) to stream podcasts that are served up from their own servers.

So I signed up to try it out….

FIRST…A QUICK RANT
I signed up and decided to give it a go with my Blackberry 7100 and TMobile account. First impressions are “it doesn’t work” but they’re still in beta so I’ll cut ’em some slack:

  • They appear to be using yet another taxonomy for defining categories! Their categories are different than iTunes, PodcastAlley, Podcast.net and others…plus I couldn’t find my own podcast and suspect they’re not including all but only the top 100 or so (for now probably). I did add it though.
  • In this directory of podcasts they list each podcast with three formats: AMR, AAC and MP3. This is cool that they’re taking a feed and encoding them before listing, but I couldn’t get any of the three formats to play on my phone (real time streaming protocol — required for AMR and AAC — isn’t supported and I got a 400 server error on the mp3)
  • Next I tried my work phone (Blackberry with Cingular) and it didn’t work either.

So on two different services with two high end mobile devices, Pod2Mob doesn’t work. If Pod2Mob is limited to a few “media enabled” phones, requires buying new phones, or puts the onus on the user to figure out how to download media player applications to get this to work, it’ll either fail as a service or be quite a while to become viable. Oh yeah….how many users purchase the all-you-can-eat data connection OR would do so for, say, $20 per month? Not many in my view.

Rumors abound that Apple and Motorola are having HUGE issues getting the mobile carriers to support an iTunes compatible phone with a direct computer connection for downloading songs vs. over the air (where the mobile carriers make more money). It’s not just these two companies that are having problems with the carriers. I’ve experienced a crippling or lack of support for seemingly *all* the new phones on the market where Bluetooth data connectivity is very restricted. Why would the carriers pressure the mobile phone manufacturers to take this step? The mobile carriers want to sell $1.99 ringtones to kids and it was brain-dead-simple before to download MIDI files as ringtones for free from a computer and the carriers couldn’t let THAT happen now could they?

Also, using a mobile phone for a laptop data modem really sucks up connection bandwidth in the cellular system. With an all-you-can-eat data connection — even if slow — still encourages long use of a specific connection thus limiting the carriers ability to sell as much capacity as possible from their infrastructure. Why would they allow their data connections to be used for streaming audio? In my opinion, if Pod2Mob gets traction, they’ll get crushed by the carriers.

One of my PodcastMN peers said it best when I asked on our mailing list if it was just me…or did anyone else think this was a bad idea,
No, it’s not you, this is a bad idea… I don’t see why everyone wants to listen to music on their phone and not an optimized device like an ipod.  I don’t want to run down by phone batteries and not have it available at a critical time; if my ipod dies, it’s not that big of a deal.  The next trend will be wifi enabled mp3 players, not phones that can play mp3’s.

NEXT…MY “OH…I GET IT!” MOMENT
Now that I’ve got the downside and negatives off my chest — and after some additional thought — I’ve realized that this service has possibilities I hadn’t yet considered until I read this:

Pod2Mob can serve up streams from central servers or user computers to mobile phones with branded mobile applications. Applications can be integrated with marketing campaigns to promote new products. Content holders can leverage Pod2Mob’s application platform to create subscription services, extend existing retailing, as well as build communities for intelligent and targeted sales.

Reading that was my “Oh shit…I get it!” moment. Imagine having a server (forget the “home” computer part) and/or simply leveraging Pod2Go’s. Now let’s say you want to deliver a streaming audio message from a billboard, a store window, inside a store, from a company, and people can access it from anywhere their data connection functions. You can quickly see how this could gain momentum.

Now imagine that location awareness hits and there is ubiquitous mobile 3rd generation (3G) data connections. This will accelerate and facilitate the ability to deliver content (in this case podcasts or any other audio) easily and within the context of the person and where they are in a physical location.

Wow!

I think the potential of this could be huge…but the rumors of Google buying up dark fiber and conjecture over them offering free WiMax city-wide wireless internet connections could be major competition for this startup. Especially if Google leverages Google Maps, and IP address geo locator services like Quova’s, you can pretty easily see how a concept like this WILL come to fruition and pretty soon. Whether Pod2Go can build critical mass fast enough as well as become THE ubiquitous provider vs. an organization like Google, remains to be seen. But the opportunity is real.

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About Steve Borsch

Strategist. Learner. Idea Guy. Salesman. Connector of Dots. Friend. Husband & Dad. CEO. Janitor. More here.

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