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Gizmondo To Offer More Than Games

31 Oct, 2005 By: John Gaudiosi

SAN FRANCISCO — Start-up portable video game company Tiger Telematics has launched its Gizmondo gaming device in the United States with plans to offer more than games.

Gizmondo will expand to offer digitally downloadable music and portable movie rentals and sales in the coming months.

Steve Carroll, CTO of Tiger Telematics, said that the future of entertainment is digital distribution. He said the Gizmondo is perfectly positioned to take advantage of MP3 music playback and movie rentals.

Carroll said the company opened Gizmondo USA, which employs 10 people, in Beverly Hills, Calif., to establish relationships with movie and music companies.

“Hollywood licensors have been reluctant to give away their crown jewels,” Carroll said. “Blockbuster Video-style rental will happen on a mobile device. Consumers will be able to rent a movie, download it and watch it. After 30 days, the movie will expire.”

One proposition Carroll mentioned is a subscription-based rental program that will allow consumers to pay $19.99 per month to download three movies per month. While the exact plans still are being worked out, the U.S. launch for movie rentals will come by March 2006, he said.

“We're currently talking to all the major studios,” Carroll said.

He said one of the deals the company is negotiating will give it access to all movie rental titles found at a rental chain like Blockbuster.

Movies will play on the current Gizmondo at 25 to 30 frames per second, which is not as clear a picture as Sony's PlayStation Portable (PSP). Carroll said that Gizmondo, which operates on Windows CE 5.0, offers a secure system.

“We've been trying to convince Hollywood movie producers that we can give their films a quality experience on the small screen,” Carroll said. He added that consumers can only watch a movie on the small screen so many times, making it perfect for rental.

In addition to movie rentals, Carroll said, select films, likely cult movies, will be available for purchase on SD cards. He said these titles likely will not be available for rental.

Taking another step into video, a $99 add-on device for Gizmondo, currently code-named MVR (mini video recorder), will ship by March 2006 in the United States. The peripheral will allow consumers to save TV content onto an SD card for mobile viewing.

“You can tape a TV show or sporting event, download it to your SD card and watch it on the way to work,” Carroll said.

Tiger Telematics has been working on new compression technology that allows consumers to download four feature-length movies onto a 1-GB SD card. Advances in compression technology over the past year have allowed the company to go from one movie on 1 GB to four movies on 1 GB.

“SD cards are a very good media to use, unlike the UMD [Universal Media Disc] used by the PSP,” Carroll said. “The prices for SD cards are dropping at a rate of 10 percent per month, while the capacity of the cards is increasing.”

Carroll said he expects 500,000 Gizmondos to be sold by the end of this year. The system launched with 14 games.

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