RealTime IT News

Mobile Video on Tryout at MySpace

The top U.S. social networking site is extending its online video viewing capabilities to mobile users via a free beta service launched today.

If you've got a smartphone -- at least, the right kind of smartphone -- you can soon start streaming videos from MySpace.com to your device if you're inclined to join the beta test.

MySpace users must first access the videos that MySpace offers up, such as music videos and tv snippets, using a PC, then save them to their Mobile MySpace page. They can then access those videos on supporting handsets.

The service will be initially be available to users of the BlackBerry Bold, Palm Centro, Motorola Q9, LG Voyager, Nokia N95 and Samsung Instinct. All these handsets currently support mobile video streaming.

"It's an interesting move as it reflects an intersection of two hot trends -- mobile and social networking -- and the biggest U.S. social network player," David Card, a principal analyst with Forrester, told InternetNews.com. "MySpace is dipping a toe in the mobile video waters at this point," Card said.

A recent IDC survey said that 98 percent of social network site users own a mobile phone and 62 percent use their device to access the Internet.

"We see the mobile platform as the next frontier for the consumption of online media and entertainment," said Caroline Dangson, an IDC analyst.

"Today's youth are growing up owning mobile devices and communicating with pictures and videos. Video plays a large role on MySpace and now mobile Internet users will get a more complete experience," Dangson added.

Juniper Research claims that the number of active mobile social network subscribers will grow from 14 million in 2007 to 600 million by 2012.

MySpace, which was not immediately available for comment, is using on-demand video transcoding technology from RipCode, a two-year-old video infrastructure provider.

The Apple iPhone does not support such capability, but MySpace will provide mobile access for iPhone users in the near future, according to RipCode.

"The goal is to provide it on every single handset," Brendon Mills, CEO of RipCode, told InternetNews.com.

MySpace's decision to go the streaming route was tied to handset trends and use, according to RipCode. Forrester's Card said the streaming option helps MySpace avoid digital rights issues that would pop up if the videos had to be downloaded before they played; plus, streaming doesn't require hefty storage on mobile devices.

While RipCode envisions tremendous growth with mobile video, Forrester's Card isn't convinced it's a big technology play just yet.

"MySpace is feeling its way into this and it's very early in the game. It's just an interesting experience from a big guy in the industry," he said.

And, of course, there's the fine print, which RipCode helpfully pointed out in its release about the beta:

"Accessing and viewing video from mobile devices is a data intensive service. MySpace mobile users are advised to consult their mobile data plan to avoid excessive fees. MySpace mobile video quality, as with all mobile services, is dependent on individual device capabilities as well as network speed and connection."