Are Motorola and Verizon Building a Boob Tab?

Motorola and Verizon are working on a new tablet device on which users will be able to watch TV, according to a Tuesday report in the Financial Times.

The Android-based tablet will feature a 10-inch screen and will be closely linked with Verizon’s FiOS digital pay-television service, the publication reported, according to “people briefed on the plans.”

A U.S. launch for the new device could take place as early as this fall.

“It is Motorola’s policy not to comment on rumor or speculation,” Motorola spokesperson Juli Burda told TechNewsWorld.

Verizon did not respond by press time to TechNewsWorld’s request for comment.

‘Unlikely to Have Massive Traction’

“Clearly, the success of the iPad has unleashed the floodgates of competition from all sides,” Al Hilwa, program director for application development software research at IDC, told TechNewsWorld.

“I continue to hold that there will be a variety of devices that will try to compete with the iPad — or at least to leverage the proven interest in simpler devices than PCs for the average consumer,” Hilwa added.

Targeting a special niche like television, however, “is unlikely to have massive traction,” he asserted. “What Apple has shown is that you need to dot a lot of i’s and cross a lot of t’s to have a balanced device.”

Of all the devices coming to market in the next six to 12 months, in fact, “it is unlikely for too many to reach the magical million-dollar device in, say, a year of sales, unless they hit a compelling category — such as e-books — very well,” Hilwa predicted, “or present a balance of features to be a useful multipurpose device.”

‘Typically Region-Specific’

One thing that’s not yet clear is how such a device would receive its content.

“I think you have to assume that they are referring to broadcast TV, but I would point you to Qualcomm’s FLO, which has struggled in the U.S.,” Jim McGregor, chief technology strategist with In-Stat, told TechNewsWorld.

“Don’t get me wrong — broadcast TV on mobile devices is popular in other regions, like Japan, but it is usually a feature on another device, like a handset, rather than a standalone device,” he pointed out.

There is potential for broadcast TV on higher-end devices like smartphones and tablets, McGregor conceded, “but it is not one of those broad applications that the masses will require.” Rather, “it is typically very region-specific and usage-specific for those that want live broadcast events, like sports.”

‘It Will Get Access to Digital TV Content’

An alternative possibility is that such a tablet TV device “likely will network with the FIOS DVR system in the home and either cache or stream content from it,” Rob Enderle, president and principal analyst with the Enderle Group, told TechNewsWorld. “So it will get access to digital TV content — not by going directly to the source, but by using the existing home video capture system.”

The device in question “apparently will be able to capture and send video back over the air to the FiOS DVRs as well,” Enderle noted.

In addition, it’s “likely that they would provide a provision to email personally created media to other FIOS customers, if not the Web in general,” he predicted. “Verizon tends to like lock-in.”

‘It Broadens the Benefit of FiOS’

Of course, with so much media convergence going on — and with so much TV content accessible via the Web — it remains to be seen how revolutionary a TV tablet would be.

“What makes this different — much like similar earlier and more limited solutions from the Dish Network, which used the Archos products or TiVo-To-Go and Portable Media Centers and notebooks — is that it broadens the benefit of FiOS, allowing you to watch the programing you are paying for in more places,” Enderle opined.

“I would expect them to eventually provide similar capability on their smartphones. This would likely layer on top of the typical tablet features of Web access, apps, etc.,” he predicted.

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