Live From CES: Mobile Hollywood

One of the great things about CES, or any tradeshow for that matter, is that you get a glimpse of what the future might look like.  And if it ends up using even half of the new technologies being unveiled here in Vegas, things are going to get pretty interesting.

Let’s start with the promise of mobile TV, which has long been—and still remains—the big buzz for the platform.  Except now we might have a real shot at making the cellphone a go-to destination for your information and entertainment needs.

Verizon, for instance, leveraged CES in part to debut their new VCast mobile TV offering.  It’s powered by Qualcomm’s $800 million MediaFLO TV technology—which broadcasts via UHF—and will feature special mobile channels from CBS, NBC, Fox, Comedy Central, and Nickelodeon.  I personally demoed the service, and noticed that the resolution on the 2” horizontal-screen LG VX9400 is quite sharp, and that changing channels is a snap.

What differentiates this service, in large measure, is that VCast Mobile TV will feature full-length episodes.  This, of course, is a major shift from the two- to four-minute clip-based videos that are currently available on carrier decks.  We’ll find out more when the offering is rolled out by the end of March.

Similarly, Motorola CEO Ed Zander’s keynote speech yesterday highlighted an upcoming offering which works much like Verizon’s mobile TV, but streams content via a broadband connection instead of UHF.  Functionally, this makes it much closer to Slingbox in nature—which used CES to debut its new “Slingcatcher” device, allowing users to push a signal to any TV set in the house.

Then there was the hotly anticipated release of Apple’s iPhone (albeit up in San Francisco), which allows users to download and play iTunes music, browse the Web, send email, and make calls.  Equipped with a wide screen and a two megapixel camera, it can also link wirelessly to printers, music headsets, Wi-Fi networks, and stereo systems.  At a $600 price point for its top-end model, it’s clear how big of a bet Apple is placing on this device.

In fact, Apple has so much faith in this and other non-computer product launches (i.e., Apple TV), that they even dropped the word “Computer” from their official title.  Although this would mark the only thing that dropped today, as Apple’s stock rose $7.10, or 8.3%, on news of the release.

These innovations do go against the grain of some industry executives here at CES.  Ian Blaine, CEO of thePlatform, for instance said at a Digital Hollywood panel that “you need to keep mobile as a communication device and mobile as an entertainment device separate.”  A point of view which, itself, goes against how much of the wireless ad spend this year will be allocated.

Regardless, it’s an exciting time to be in mobile.  And if players like Verizon, Moto, Sling, and Apple have their say, it’s going to stay that way for some time.