They can't all be winners
Mobile chip giant Qualcomm has been attempting to diversify its product offering for some time now and, inevitably, some initiatives look like being hits, while some fail.
Falling into the latter category, as a direct-to-consumer offering at least, is FLO TV. Qualcomm has created a parallel mobile network designed specifically to stream mobile TV. The rationale behind this is that the main networks are already under enough bandwidth pressure without the considerable additional needs of streaming video, so why not have a new one just for that purpose.
That rationale remains valid, but in order to boost the visibility and viability of FLO TV Qualcomm created its own device to offer directly to end users, through which they could access the content Qualcomm has licensed to be broadcast over this network.
At the start of this week it was extensively rumoured that Qualcomm had decided to stop offering the device, and yesterday that became official. Here's the Qualcomm statement:
As we previously indicated in our July 2010 earnings call, we have been examining strategic opportunities for FLO TV. We have been engaging in conversations with a wide range of partners for both the network and the spectrum. We are seeing strong interest in using the FLO TV network or spectrum to capitalize on the growing imbalance between mobile data supply and demand, the growth of tablets, and consumer demand for high quality video and print content, and a richer user experience.
While this process continues, we are suspending our direct to consumer sales of new devices. We anticipate we will maintain the network so that current direct to consumer subscribers will continue to receive FLO programming into Spring 2011. Service provided to handsets purchased through wireless operators is unaffected at this time. In the event of a discontinuance of service, FLO TV will make appropriate refunds, the details of which will be communicated prior to discontinuation. While we are working to redeploy impacted employees, we anticipate that there will be some layoffs.
This doesn't really affect the world outside the US as the device wasn't on sale anywhere else, but it does say something about the viability of the conventional TV model on mobile devices. It seems we're keen to watch brief clips on our mobile devices, but entire, scheduled TV programmes are another matter.
However, with tablets currently hot property in the tech world, and one of their primary usage models being media consumption, there's surely got to be a market for such a mobile TV network.