By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
TWICE: What future demand do you see for MP3 players and PMPs that use Wi-Fi to download music and video, on a subscription or purchase basis, directly from authorized web sites?
Andy Mintz, Philips: We anticipate an increasing demand for products that download music and video from subscription-based authorized websites. As soon as download speeds and the amount of access points increase, Wi-Fi will be a more common technology.
Larry Smith, Archos: Accessing content wirelessly must be easy, and it must be fast. Content relationships like we have with CinemaNow in the U.S. make it incredibly easy. You search the CinemaNow video store on your device, just as you would if you were on the computer, select what you want to purchase, and then download. We're exploring subscription models as well and have just rolled out a content subscription package in Europe.
The key is that it be easy, and that the relationship between the content owner and device manufacturer be tightly integrated, so the consumer can use the PMP to find and purchase the movie they want to watch right now!
Rob Williams, RealNetworks: Increased Wi-Fi availability in more homes and places like coffee shops, airports and restaurants will go hand in hand with increased demand for Wi-Fi-enabled portable devices and the services they deliver. The PC provides a great medium for organizing digital media collections and transferring content to portable devices to take on the go.
An even more powerful experience, however, is the ability to access comprehensive collections of music or video content at the click of a button or touch of a screen. With Wi-Fi-enabled PMPs and unlimited-access services like Rhapsody, consumers won't be limited to enjoying just the content they physically own at home — they'll have instant access to millions of songs, videos, TV shows and movies wherever they are. It is that key experience that will drive popularity and demand for Wi-Fi-enabled players and related content services.
Ross Rubin, The NPD Group: In terms of delivering on-demand access to portable content, Wi-Fi is 4G wireless with a case of agoraphobia. Recent open-access announcements by Verizon Wireless and Sprint, along with the possibility of Google getting into the open-access game, should create new opportunities for music players. However, these will take years to get off the ground. Wi-Fi is here now. Apple's partnership with Starbucks to sell music at the coffee chain's shops provides a good context for passive music exploration.
TWICE: What is the potential for cellphones that play MP3 or other music-file formats?
Andy Mintz, Philips: Philips market research believes that people are keeping their entertainment devices separate, and that the impact off combining MP3 players with a cellphone is not catching on as fast as some believe.
Rubin: We continue to see music-capable phones continue to penetrate the market as prices come down and usability improves. While the percentage of consumers using these features does not seem to be moving much, it will represent a large number as growth rates continue. In any case, the two modes of music acquisition aren't mutually exclusive. PCs are a fine repository for your existing music collection and allow you to back up and do other maintenance tasks. But wireless can lead to more spontaneous music exploration, streaming and purchasing at many more locations. Enabling MP3 players with wireless [cellular] connections will blur the lines between them and smartphones, as the iPhone and iPod Touch have proven.
Dale Sohn, Samsung Telecommunications America: Mobile music in all of its forms is a key battleground across the industry and will continue to be at the top of consumers' wish lists. The mobile phone is one of the most highly individualized consumer devices, and music provides yet another opportunity to further enhance that personalization through content, ringtones, and so forth.
Online capabilities, mobile access as well as music are fusing together. The mobile phone is one of the most effective ways to deliver content and services to consumers and to connect fans and artists.
Kevin Sinclair, Wireless Zone: Music was secondary to the purchase of a phone in the past, but the iPhone has created the need and want. All of the manufacturers are building high-end devices, many with far more features and better functions than the iPhone. At the end of the day, they will all play music and do the same thing; it still boils down to system quality and speed.
Gregg Kuperstein, Wireless Toyz: The iPhone has created greater awareness and overall demand for feature-rich phones — whether it is music, Internet, email or text messaging. More and more customers are coming into our stores looking for these phones. More versatile handsets are entering the market incorporating innovative features such as a touchscreens. Additionally, the exclusive iPhone agreement with AT&T and customers' willingness to change carriers in order to purchase the phone suggests individuals are beginning to make their purchasing decisions based on the phone rather than the carrier, similar to European purchasing patterns.
Mark Louison, Nokia North America: Recent history has shown us that as new features are integrated into wireless devices, the customer benefits of this integration create an impact on the market for dedicated devices. Already today, Nokia is the world's leading manufacturer of imaging devices and digital music players, and we are moving into a world where video, navigation and more will play a major part in many of our future devices. By converging mobility with these features, Nokia is creating choice for consumers in the market.
While some customers will prefer the convenience of an always-connected converged mobile device, some customers will still prefer a stand-alone device along with a mobile phone. However, no matter which choice consumers make, the introduction of mobility to these functions is making the overall market for music, imaging, navigation and the like larger and more dynamic.
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.