Catching Up With Orb

I wrote about Orb back in April after CTIA, so it was good to catch up with Ian McCarthy, Orb’s VP, Product Marketing today.

If you don’t remember the original post, Orb make a free app that sits on your PC that then enables you to stream anything you have on it to your mobile. This could be TV (if you have a tuner), audio or files. Think Slingbow without the box and the $249.99 price, plus the $29.99 mobile software. Or as¬†I wrote back then:

For me though, the Orb solution is simply way superior. You don’t need hardware, it’s free (or significantly cheaper if you need to buy a Tuner) and by hooking up my mobile with my computer, as opposed to my computer/mobile with my TV, offers far more potential uses.

The big news in Orb’s world and strategically significant for all of us mobile watchers is their deal with Vodafone Germany, called Mein PC (or My PC, if you need the translation!). I think it’s fair to say that Vodafone are nearer the walled garden model than many and this deal is important as they’d just knocked a very big hole in the wall, albeit not demolished¬†it entirely¬†quite yet. It’s a tacit agreement that they aren’t best placed to decide what content that the user sees on the mobile – the user is.

Of course, the big issue of Data Pillage still exists, where the user is faced with an unfeasibly large bill if they start using services like Orb regularly. But looking at this optimistically, if the trial is successful, it’s going to be the driver for some all-you-can-eat data plans which we’re crying out for in Europe. In the US, where operators are slightly more enlightened about data, some users are Orbing for 45 minute sessions 3 times a week, which clearly points to a latent demand for this kind of thing.

The other interesting piece of news for me was that YouTube could now be Orbed to your phone. An awful lot of YouTube content is generated by video phones, so this closes the loop and lets the phone become both creator and consumer of mobile content. If this takes off it’ll be bad news for the likes if SeeMeTV, as you just won’t need that channel any more and certainly won’t need to pay 50p to upload your video, unless you’re convinced that thousands will download it, earning you 1p at a time.

Finally, much of the focus of these types of services is on TV and certainly Orb has the potential to be truly disruptive in this market. But as I’ve been saying for a long time, I think the perfect marriage for mobile is actually audio – or radio, in the loosest possible use of the term. Mobile is all about movement and while TV is good sometimes, it’ll make you bump into a lot of lamposts when you’re walking down the street.

Mobile, then, could presage the Golden Age for radio and certainly the ability to stream music straight from your PC to your phone to create your own personal radio station is here now. But it also opens up the niche of user generated content radio, or Podcasts, to the true mass market of all of us who own a PC and a mobile.

This¬†creates many opportunities.¬†Producing our own “newspaper” has proven incredibly powerful, as blogs have shown. Now the¬†opportunity to¬†creating your own radio station exists and more importantly, the means to broadcast it to a mass market audience.

Watch this space.


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