Given the recent carnage in SanDisk, writing about a glorified USB drive and a beta download service, feels a little like whistling past the graveyard. So be it. Seems to be in my character, and besides I don’t feel like the sky is falling anyway.
At first glance, TakeTV seemed pretty much as expected and FanFare not quite ready for prime time, but there are angles to watch. Hence this post.
Must admit, I wasn’t anticipating FanFare. There were hints, but didn’t pick up on them. Now that its here, am not so sure exactly what we’ve got. Don’t think we’ll really know until the CES in January.
TakeTV is listed at $99.99 for 4 GB and $149.99 for 8GB. To my mind a bit high, but this won’t last long with NAND dropping 40 to 50% per year and x3 and x4 on top of that.
TakeTV is a much more compelling product at $49.99 and $74.99, and more so yet at $24.99 and $37.49 and it won’t stop there. TakeTV might be the poster child for the revolution of cheap. This is a good thing. Especially if you own the standard and the cheapest NAND, as SanDisk does.
Apple TV currently sells for $299 and $399 for 40GB or 160GB of storage, respectively. Apple TV is much more sophisticated product than TakeTV, but it does address the same market: downloaded video on TV.
Apple TV’s sales have stalled. While it may as yet morph into a successful product, it is highly unlikely that it will ever become a $24.99 device. My bet is that TakeTV will reach this price point, and sooner than anticipated.
Digital Music vs Digital Video
Apple had leverage on the digital music industry with iTunes that it won’t have for digital video. Ultimately this could work in SanDisk’s favor.
Seems unlikely that SanDisk will be one of headliners on the main stage where the featured act is going to be Apple vs the Media Titans. Apple will get its share, but the CBSs and the NBCs of this world are going to get their share too this time around. The fallout looks like thumbs up for SanDisk.
Once the iTunes/ iPod lock is broken, am expecting a free-for-all to ensue. This will mean an opportunity for selling lots of media players (Sansas) and lots of related media (cards). It could also mean selling lots of PC-to-TV media players (TakeTVs).
ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox and the major movie studios are all putting their offerings on the web for online viewing/downloading. Some are working with Apple, some are going their own way. Some are doing both.
Apple has its bridge from PC to TV (Apple TV). The media titans don’t really care about such. Content their game. Set-top boxes may eventually provide the required functionality, but that’s going to take a while. In the meantime, TakeTV could pick up a lot of friends.
My guess is that syndication is going to rule. In other words, the media guys are going to go with whatever works, whether their distribution system or others such as FanFare.
“The first U.S-based content partners on the Fanfare BETA platform include: CBS, Jaman.com Inc., Showtime Networks, Smithsonian Networks, The Weather Channel and TV Guide Broadband.”
Don’t believe that SanDisk is saying that CBS, Showtime etc will be offering their content exclusively on FanFare, only that some content will be available via FanFare and probably not exclusively. This is not bad news. SanDisk has its foot in the door, now let’s see what it can do.
Right now TakeTV is a simple way to move video content from PC to TV, but there’s likely more to come. A memory card slot would allow viewing of card content on TVs. In addition, if TV recording functionality were added, TV shows could be recorded for viewing on mobile devices.
Ultimately TakeTV may morph into a compact, portable solid state TiVo, but that may take a while. Encoding high quality video is a challenge as it takes a lot of computer processing power.
One of the very interesting angles to watch is when and whether internet video moves to an ad-supported model. Forrester seems to think the paid video download market is a dead end.
SanDisk appears ready and willing to embrace an ad-supported model if that’s what it takes:
“ SanDisk chose to launch an early version of Fanfare to begin to expose people to the innovative concept of easily transferring content from the PC to the TV. Fanfare will gain additional features when the full version is launched early next year. In addition –while the paid content model is common for other video download services—SanDisk is working closely with its content partners to establish an advertising-supported model for current season television programming.
The overall vision of Fanfare is to enable users to draw from a rich catalog of free and paid video content from a single location for playback on a wide variety of portable devices in the future. These devices will consist of SanDisk’s line of Sansa audio/video players, as well as mobile phones, hand-held computers and TVs. Future plans also include video being transferred via SanDisk mobile cards.”
The international angle is interesting. SanDisk has said that TakeTV will be available outside of the U.S. in 2008. In a couple of years, when costs are down and capacities are up, TakeTV could really amount to something. Simple and affordable should translate well in emerging markets.
A Missing Link
Now that SanDisk has a fledgling video download service with Fanfare, it needs a larger screen video player that much more. Am sure this is not lost on the company and am guessing a new and improved version of the large screen Sansa View video player will be introduced soon, maybe at CES in January.
Essentially SanDisk needs a product to compete with Apple’s iPod touch.
As discussed the challenge is that the iPod touch is really a small handheld computer with its own OS, browser and so forth.
SanDisk doesn’t have an iPhone to dumb down, which is pretty much all Apple had to do for the iPod touch. I am guessing that SanDisk will use Linux for its OS and will also include WiFi this time around. Think they pretty much have to include WiFi, as their product will be compared to the iPod touch which has WiFi. If SanDisk includes WiFi, it will probably also need to include a browser and email.
Am not sure about whether SanDisk will use a touch screen for its product. I still think the google mobile platform would be a nice fit for applications, but SanDisk has other options too.