Mobile TV promises to revolutionize wireless. What could spoil the fun?

By David MacNeill

Mobile digital television is positioned to be the biggest thing to happen to wireless since cellular voice. Everyone watches TV and everyone has grown dependent on their mobile phone, so it's a no brainer. Who wouldn't want TV to go? There are a few potential deal breakers to keep in mind:

  1. The price has to be right, just like any other service add-on. Only affluent geeks will pay, say, $69 per month for mobile TV. The devices also have to be cheap enough to be attainable by almost anyone.
  2. The display has to be big enough for an enjoyable viewing experience. That is to say, bigger than the vast majority of mobile phone screens today. This has to be done in such a way that the phone is not much bigger than what people are used to.
  3. The frame rate has to be at least 15 frames per second and preferably 30 fps. Jerky images that don't sync up with the soundtrack is very fatiguing after only a few minutes. No one will put up with that irritation for long.
  4. The phone has to be capable of running TV for hours and hours without the battery dying in the middle of Battlestar Galactica. Unlike an iPod Video, you can't pick up where you left off once you get home and charge 'er up. This is broadcast we're talking about, not TiVo -- at least not in the first generation of telly-phones anyway.
NeoMagic's unique application processor designs address all of these problems to varying extents. Their single chip solutions are compact and inexpensive compared to competing designs, which helps keep the devices smaller and cheaper. The inherent performance advantages of massively parallel processing makes larger displays with high frame rates less of a processing burden. Those same efficiencies keep the battery drain to a fraction of that required by traditional ASIC designs -- NeoMagic is promising 4-8 hours of continuous 30 frames per second MDTV on a charge.