- 12 Feb 08, 18:42 GMT
Do you really want to watch movies on your mobile? And would you rather get unlimited music bundled with your phone, or pay for each track? As media giants examine new opportunities and risks in the mobile world, these are two questions being pondered by industry executives in Barcelona. And by Isabella Rossellini.
The actress and film-maker – and daughter of Ingrid Bergman and Roberto Rossellini – is one of the more unlikely visitors to the more Mobile World Congress but she certainly made a far more interesting interviewee than most of the executives with their stream of acronyms and jargon.
Ms Rossellini is here to promote a series of short films she has made especially for mobile phones, in a project backed by Robert Redford's Sundance Channel. Her five films are called “Green Porno” and, believe it or not, are about the sex lives of insects. As she explained, how can you go wrong with a mixture of innovation, environmentalism and sex?
Isabella Rossellini said she wasn't the right person to comment on the business model for mobile movies – then went on to talk in some detail about the attractions to advertisers of a medium where you know exactly who is watching your content.
For now, short movies are likely to be seen as little more than promotional gimmicks used by operators to show off the capabilities of their handsets. It's in the business of music on the mobile that the real media battle is now hotting up.
Both the record labels and the mobile industry are determined not to let Apple's iPhone win the same dominance in mobile music as it has on the desktop. And after saying goodbye to Isabella Rossellini I went to get a glimpse of the secret weapon that is supposed to stop that happening.
Rob Lewis of Omnifone – the British firm whose MusicStation service is used by a number of networks as an iTunes rival – showed me the new LG phone which is supposed to be the iPhone killer. It comes loaded with MusicStation Max, which promises unlimited free music downloads over a 3G network. Well actually, there will be a limit – you can't own more music than the phone holds.
But Mr Lewis was quite convincing about the attractions – the phone will probably come free with an 18 month contract, its contents will be continuously backed up onto the network's server, so if you lose the handset you can retrieve your music, and if you decide not to renew the contract you can keep what's on your phone. The one downside is that you never actually “own” the music – the DRM prevents you from burning it to a CD, for instance.
We were not allowed to film the phone – but I can tell you it's a touchscreen device which looks just like an iPhone but also has a slide-out keyboard. So is this really the device which will give the music industry a chance to halt Apple's inexorable advance as a digital music giant?
Maybe, but music fans now seem convinced that anything cool has got to have an “i” in front of it, so don't bet on it.
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