HQME Mobile Standard Ignores Today’s Streaming Reality

Sony, (s sne) Orange, SanDisk (s sndk) and SoftBank are proposing a new standard for getting content to mobile devices using SD cards and Wi-Fi networks in the home, but is a download model for mobiles going to fly in a streaming world? The companies have formed a steering committee for the standard, known as HQME (High Quality Mobile Experience) and have created an IEEE working group (the IEEE version is called P2200). It would automatically detect when a mobile device hits a Wi-Fi network (and is plugged in), then begin downloading content such as movies or e-books for consumption later, while seemingly keeping digital rights management and subscription information intact.

This is good for SanDisk, because your phone or tablet is going to need more storage, good for Sony because DRM could travel with the content and good for Orange because it takes high-bandwidth content off beleaguered mobile networks: the antithesis of streaming. But will HQME fly in a real-time, interactive world? Under the proposed IEEE P2200 standard, memory on the mobile device is viewed as the last node on the network. Developers who want their applications to participate in the standard write their apps to download content when the mobile device is connected to AC power and Wi-Fi. For more insights on the IEEE draft specification P2200, visit this site. From the release:

“HQME’s innovation is to align key players in mobile content delivery to minimize the inconveniences associated with acquiring content over capacity-constrained mobile networks,” said Susan Kevorkian, research director, mobile connected devices, IDC. “Intelligently coordinating content delivery in advance to local device storage lets consumers enjoy their video, games, periodicals, books and music when they’re ready, and may help mobile operators and service providers to reduce churn by improving the perceived quality of the experience. The importance of this type of industry-standard solution will only grow as adoption of mobile broadband enabled devices proliferates in tandem with mobile entertainment services.”

Despite the rah-rah happy consumer quotes included in the release, the key aspects of HQME focus on making it better for mobile operators to deliver content on their networks during non-peak times, like late at night while the phone is charging by your bedside. However,no one wants to read last night’s news the next day and most people aren’t pre-planning their mobile content consumption. Content such as YouTube (s goog) videos or Facebook updates are generally what people want to download and watch on their mobile phones. In fact, Allot Communications today said YouTube accounts for more than 20 percent of mobile traffic in Western Europe and Asia-Pacific. However, if someone wants long-form content from their mobile, such as before a plane ride, you can bet they download it over Wi-Fi whenever possible. If they don’t, it’s likely because the monetary incentives aren’t quite there yet. For example, I can pay Netflix (s nflx) $7.99 a month for streaming access for all seven episodes of Downton Abbey or pay $2.99 to download a single episode on my iPad.

Some people may make this choice and catch up on last night’s news on their rides into work, or pay for access to television that isn’t available via streaming services such as Netflix or Hulu, but I am not sure that consumers or app developers outside the big media companies and mobile operators want a standard to automatically push-deliver content via Wi-Fi. There’s a market for podcasts and even TV show subscription services where this standard makes sense, but is the demand really widespread enough to build this into devices and applications? We know the world is moving toward real-time, interactive and streaming content even if the content providers and operators don’t.

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