Mobile Industry Embraces Touch-Screen

Some bet on 'projector glasses'

Mobintech, a Denmark-based group, believes it has found the solution to the mobile phone industry's problem of trying to offer television and video services on a tiny screen. "The logic of our product is that everyone wants to push mobile television at the moment but there are obstacles," says marketing director Soren Peterson. "The first is the size of the screen. If you're watching football you can't see the ball. If it's boxing, you don't know who is hitting who."

The group's proposition is a chunky pair of futuristic-looking glasses that connect to the phone, which when worn by a viewer give the impression of watching a 30-inch (76-centimeter) television at a distance of two meters.

Stephanie Pittet, an analyst at IT and telecom research group Gartner, says such accessories are likely to remain niche. The whiff of "geekiness" and the limited applications for the product are likely to hold them back. "The problems for the development of video have been things other than the screen, being more from the service provider side or from the network infrastructure," she said.

As a trend, screens on mobile phones are getting larger and of higher resolution. High-end phones are now adequate for viewing photos and short videos and handsets must remain small lest they begin to look like computers. "There will be a limit (to the size of the screen) because it's called a mobile after all," said Dominique Oh, Europe director for South Korean phone manufacturer LG.

The obvious craze for the mobile industry in terms of screen technology, as seen at this year's Mobile World Congress industry event in Barcelona, is for touch-screen capabilities. This follows the success of the Apple iPhone, launched last year, which jettisoned the alphanumeric keypad in favor of pure touch-screen controls. "Apple has absolutely redefined the proposition," said Shiv Bakhshi, chief handset analyst at market research group IDC. Caroline Milanesi, another analyst at the Gartner group, said the "the main focus is touch-screen" for manufacturers at the moment.

As Internet and multimedia use increases, the desire for bigger screens is likely to grow. Mobile providers are keen for phone owners to use their handsets for more than just calls and texting -- for which profits are declining in developed countries -- with Internet browsing, television, games and mapping the basis of future product offerings.

Grant Russell, a director of U.S.-based group Vuzix which has developed a similar product to Mobintech, points to statistics predicting the exponential growth in the number of users downloading videos onto their phones in the next few years. "I'm hoping a reasonable percentage of these might want a secondaray screen," he said. "The closer they get to sunglasses the more commonplace we expect them to become." Mobintech's product is not compatible with any phones at present, requiring special video-enabling software. Vuzix's glasses are on sale in the U.S. and Japan and will soon launch in Europe.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008

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