Social networking’s sexier than Blu-ray

The price of Blu-ray players and discs seems set to fall this season, as those involved seek to take the format into the mass market – meanwhile that market’s changing, with consumers flocking to sign-up to location-based social networking services for their mobile phones, a pair of ABI Research reports claim.

“Blu-ray vendors and dealers are starting to realize that for Blu-ray to become the next DVD, they need to lower player prices in order to generate interest and build volumes,” said ABI Research principal analyst Steve Wilson.
 
“They are also getting more competition than they expected from download alternatives,” he noted (think everyone from Xbox to Apple TV for this).

“However downloads provide an opportunity as well as a threat: both LG and Samsung have concluded agreements with Netflix that allow some of their players to download movies and TV shows straight from Netflix. The more the Blu-ray players adopt these download capabilities, the better they will be able to differentiate themselves from standard DVD players,” the analyst noted.

Sharing and socialising seem to be a faster-evolving space, however, with location-based service provider (and iPhone app maker) Loopt reaching a technology licensing agreement with Qualcomm this week – meaning its applications will be available through a huge – really huge – array of mobile phones.

Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers’ $100 million iFund invests in Whrrl, a company whic competes with Loopt, fact fans…Here’s a host of interesting detail about these companies and these technologies.

Unlike Blu-ray, social networking is a bull market, with services like friend finders, local search and geo-tagging set to create 82 million location-based social networking subscriptions by 2013, ABI Research also said. (We think they’re underestimating – we sense a Facebook-style fast evolution’s in place in this market – and music and media should climb in early to maximise returns).

“While growth will be mainly driven by the availability of multimedia-centric GPS handsets, other mobile form factors will also become important”, said ABI Research director Dominique Bonte. “Mobile Internet Devices (MIDs) with built-in GPS receivers have been announced, with location-based social networking site GyPSii supporting Moblin-based Intel Atom processor-powered MIDs” he said.

Avoiding the acronyms, these social techs and services are all about imagination and possibility – the analyst notes, “Connected PNDs and outdoor GPS solutions are other obvious candidates for location-based networking. Nissan Carwings’ in-car telematics solution allows the sharing and ranking of fuel consumption in Japan.”

Proving the really good sense inherent in the Loopt deal with Qualcomm, the analysts also noted that licensing agreements with carriers and handsets manufacturers will be a crucial success factor for location-enabled social sites to reach critical market share. “While initially a wide range of business models will coexist, ultimately advertising-based models will prevail due to the perfect fit with the local search- and content-driven social context,” they said.
 
They also note that location-enabled instant messaging with applications such as Palringo Local and Nokia Chat are “enriching mobile communication with location context”. Thing is here they kind of miss that these technologies are information-based, and while we’re looking at messaging now, in future we can anticipate things such as grocery apps which automatically tell you where the cheapest prices/freshest produce can be found; fuel apps to let you know where the cheapest gas can be found; neighbourhood networks for fire, famine or other trouble to be broadcast.

The conclusion? Unlike Blu-ray, reducing in inherent value in order to reach a perceived market, social networking solutions are opening up opportunities for brand new industries.

Here we love music, so imagine the viral effect of a tying music releases up to social-networking savvy fan-based networks.

Imagine if every Marillion fan had an app like this on their phone – the band could alert them when a new release is available, tease them with a free song taken from the album, and let them know when they’re gigging nearby, offering their fans a free T-shirt (for example) when they attend the show on condition they buy their ticket in advance of general sale.

Apply a sprinkling of iPhone-inspired magic – such as this, described by AT&T this week, add imagination and see what you get…

This could work for any act as part of an overall digital pitch. It could work for anyone – the power of Flash-mobbing tied to a passion for any creative art form. Such powerful stuff it’s no surprise Blu-ray just doesn’t look that sexy right now, is it? What are your thoughts?

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