Mobile DTV: A Gadgeteer’s Delight

Correspondent Carl Lindemann offers a look upcoming consumer products.

Broadcasters have many good reasons to hope for the ultimate success of mobile DTV. One key factor is the eagerness that consumer-electronics manufacturers have shown for developing exciting gadgets that utilize the over-the-air content. A wide array of devices should be available by the holiday season, along with enhancements allowing existing devices to receive mobile-DTV signals.

The Mobile DTV Marketplace in the Central Hall Lobby at the 2010 NAB Show featured a sample of what is soon to be found on the shelves at consumer-electronics retailers.

The first dedicated devices come from LG Electronics and Pixtree. Both are essentially DVD players incorporating a mobile-DTV decoder chip. The LG unit will be available at a suggested retail price of $249. It also has the distinction of being the first consumer device to be certified under the new ATSC Mobile DTV Certification Mark program. Expect to see the symbol for this certification on many devices by year’s end.

One of the reasons mobile DTV is attractive to device manufacturers is the ease of providing new capabilities. Adding the decoding chip is a relatively inexpensive modification that adds a great deal of value to existing products. Computer manufacturer Dell is set to release several devices with these capabilities. The Dell Inspiron Mini 10 netbook with mobile DTV is on display at NAB.

Another way to get mobile DTV is via an external connector. Enabling devices permit existing cellphones, netbooks, and even iPads to feed mobile-DTV data. Typically, these use USB ports and the like to connect. Units from DTV Interactive, iMovee, and Hauppauge are little more than the mobile-DTV decoding chip, an antenna, and a USB port. Retail prices are around $100.

Devices without a USB port can still get mobile DTV. Valup’s Tivizen mobile-DTV receiver connects through WiFi, opening up the iPad, iPhone, Blackberry, and laptops/netbooks.

Before long, other devices, particularly for in-car applications, will arrive. In time, virtually any device with a screen, from cellphones to notebook computers, should be available with mobile-DTV capabilities. For now, the selection seen at NAB is an impressive start.