Week in Geek: Will ESPN find mobile happiness?

By Jonathan Blum and Seth Elkin

For all those sports fans who can’t be on the go without up-to-the minute scoring updates or the latest rant from Stephen A. Smith, this week was a good one. Mobile ESPN – the content, not the MVNO – lives again.It’s now available on Verizon’s VCast service. What did we learn from last year’s Mobile ESPN debacle? Well, there are limits to sports content even with fans. The failure of Mobile ESPN showed that as cool as sports might be, people really do care about service, cheap minutes and a family plan. Still, ESPN seems to be hedging its mobile bets a little bit. It is still maintaining a Web site where customers on other mobile carriers can access ESPN content while on the go.

While we’re on the subject of mobile content, what’s up with the wireless phone industry, as a whole? Over the last few weeks, T-Mobile, Verizon and Alltel all reported rising revenues in the first quarter of this year. Americans and Canadians are going for cell phones over landlines in increasing numbers. All of that adds up to a good reason for sports broadcasters to examine their wireless strategies. We’re not sure exactly what’s driving the increased revenues, but our guess is that ancillary services like live video and music downloads have a lot to do with it.

And while we’re talking about mobile gadgets, we’re seeing the computer industry push sophisticated portable media center models for the upcoming holiday season. Notebooks are the fastest-growing segment of the computer market. HP has just come out with a notebook that has a 1080p screen. The idea is to turn notebooks into legitimate media devices. At this point, TV doesn’t have much to worry about. The quality is iffy because the video cards and screens in these computers are rarely optimized for great TV viewing.

In other tech news, Commander Data leads Robot Hall of Fame ’07 class…TiVo
expands search capabilities…Cisco, MTV tap college kids for Web content…DirecTV looking at broadband over power lines …Amazon challenging iTunes…Google launches uber search.

And finally,
Tommy Boy outtakes.