One of the great benefits of working with the Symbian community is that it is much easier to share views with a wider variety of people and companies. Breadth of views will make for much more varied and interesting contributions, and result in more exciting roadmaps for everyone. In this first of a series of postings, I met up with David Springall, CTO of Yospace, to discuss mobile video.
What is Yospace’s role in the video delivery ecosystem?
We provide a “cloud-based” service that deals with the problems of getting online video out to mobile handsets. With the multitude of handsets professing to support video – each with their own set of idiosyncrasies – getting the optimum user experience (and in some cases, *any* user experience!) for the widest possible audience is technically very challenging. We’ve wrapped up our 4 years of experience of running our own consumer facing video site and made this technology available as software-as-a-service solution.
What are the main blockers to video delivery services on mobiles becoming mass market?
It was quite fashionable a few years ago to think that you had to target video content for mobile. In the last few years we’ve witnessed an explosion of short form content being produced for the web and that usually works perfectly well in the mobile medium. So, the issue is not availability of video content, it’s the fact that it’s perceived as quite expensive build a service that gets video out to mobile coupled with the fact that the audiences still relatively small. For most publishers the perceived cost of getting video out to mobile combined with the fact that the advertising revenues reflect the smaller audience has taken a mobile video offering off of the table. Operator data tariffs are making it more and more affordable to access rich media services, the devices are out there, but the publishers need to build their audiences. We believe we are helping break this catch-22 situation by making it really easy and affordable for publishers to start converging their rich online offering with mobile.
What have you found easy about working on the Symbian platform?
Our experience with the Symbian platform has been extremely positive – stuff usually just works. Most of our time is spent working around handset foibles and when it comes to video streaming and playback the Symbian devices seem to be the least fussy. For example, if the device can’t negotiate a UDP stream for RTP packets, it just gets on with it over TCP. If everything out there worked as well, then perhaps we wouldn’t be needed!
What are the features you’d like to see from the Symbian multimedia world?
We would love to have more control over the in-built video player without the need to install software onto the phone. The primary motivation is to be able to offer a richer medium for advertisers, which is where we predict most of the funding of mobile video will come from. Ideally we would like to see some means by which it would be possible to offer interactivity with the video — so that advertising inserted into the video — as a pre-roll, or even an overlay — could be ‘clicked through’ somehow.
It would be great if the in-built video player when streaming could offer bandwidth detection. The RTSP protocol has provisions for this so it would be great to see it implemented on the handset side. If this worked, I think that Symbian would be able to offer a superior playback user experience because the RTSP/RTP protocol it supports is very network efficient.
How do you see mobile video delivery evolving over the coming years?
We are likely to see a significant amount of interest from content providers over the next two years as we all get used to enjoying the benefits of internet and mobile convergence. It’s really important that the source of revenue for these content providers, which I believe will largely come from sponsorship and advertising needs to be supported by the technology. Developers will find their way around any shortcomings in the native video playback capabilities for the purposes of supporting their paymasters better and that may result in a less than ideal user experience which may have a negative effect on user uptake, which in turn is critical for the investment by content providers to stack up.