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Summary:

iPhone users are a growing and vocal audience, that’s for sure. But the focus of the companies being built around the platform is simply too marginal for them to become successful standalone businesses over the long term. Take mDialog, a Toronto-based startup that aims to help […]

iPhone users are a growing and vocal audience, that’s for sure. But the focus of the companies being built around the platform is simply too marginal for them to become successful standalone businesses over the long term. Take mDialog, a Toronto-based startup that aims to help video makers share their personal and professional clips on various platforms, most prominently the iPhone and AppleTV.

mdialogThe 3-year-old company’s strength is clearly its design — the iPhone app is lovely. But it’s just that, an app whose use is limited to the iPhone; mDialog doesn’t offer anything close to the feature set of a full video content management system. CEO Greg Philpott agreed with us at a recent in-person interview that any serious user would have employ a different vendor to manage most of its web video distribution, and mDialog as its iPhone distribution provider.

Toronto-based mDialog was originally formed to make interactive online fiction, but that wasn’t a great business, Philpott said, so it took its polling software — which overlays onto videos while they’re playing — and turned it into this platform. It also raised a hefty angel round of $3 million from Canadian investors Arthur Labbatt, heir to the Labbatt brewing fortune, and his wife Sonia in August 2007. The mDialog platform’s special features include the aforementioned polling, as well as geo-tagging for video, support for high-definition uploads, video encoding from a Safari browser plug-in, and detailed iPhone viewing statistics. At Macworld this month the company introduced ad insertion.

So who does Philpott expect to buy this product? There’s a $49.99 version that gives you 50 GB storage and 100 GB bandwidth a month. But that’s supposedly intended for small-time users who want to distribute their videos with family and friends. Anyone who wanted to view the videos would have to download the mDialog app onto their own iPhones — not exactly a low-impact process.

I don’t think there’s much of an opportunity there, but Philpott said he thinks there’s real revenue to be made, especially with corporate clients. mDialog customers range from Velez Capital Management to French Maid TV (which was presumably a barter arrangement, since the show made a commercial for mDialog).

Still, mobile video delivery is not something every white-label video provider offers, so I wouldn’t say mDialog is completely crazy. Brightcove, for instance, pushes mobile delivery to partners like Azuki and Transpera. And last year, video provider KIT Digital acquired Kamera, a mobile video company.

But…mDialog isn’t focused on mobile video, it’s focused on iPhone video. And that just seems like too small of a market sliver to ever find any real success.

This post also appeared on BusinessWeek.com.

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  3. Hi Liz,

    Thanks again for having me in your office last week. I know we met after a whirlwind week at MacWorld and just wanted to clarify a few points that might not have come through. I agree [of course!] mDialog’s iPhone app is pretty slick, but that’s not the only thing we have going for us. Video Publishers can also reach their audience on other mobile devices such as iPod/iPod Touch, Google’s Android Phone, Zune, PlayStation Portable, or any mobile device that has a modern web browser, can play H.264 video and/or has a media RSS client. Additionally, we reach the computer screen with our embeddable video player for the web. We can also get to the living-room TV in HD via Apple TV or other set-top box devices that take RSS video feeds.

    As for our rates, our iPhone App is free and available to everyone from the App Store. Our membership plans range from free to an annual fee of $49 for video creators who want to share home movies with friends and family to pro video bloggers. We also offer customizable packages for our broadcast customers like BiteTV – making mDialog accessible to all.

    Best,

    Greg Philpott, CEO mDialog

    http://www.mdialog.com/about/plans

  4. Richard Harrington Thursday, January 22, 2009
    1. The embedded player is the best I’ve seen (and I’ve seen a lot). It is clean and elegant with video playback quality better than anyone else. I am picky (I literally wrote the book Producing Video Podcasts). Their player makes it easy to push the content out to blogs and new websites. This is where a ton of views come from. The player has very cool social features (comments and ratings) but more importantly are the embed options. Our Photoshop CS4 Sneak Peek Show (csfour.com) was picked up by many other bloggers who put the show on their sites. What was cool too is that even if someone only picked one show to reshare… ALL the episodes went with as the player “phones home” and shows all the episodes.

    2. The content management system is easy, and powerful. I currently use it to manage four podcast series that regularly appear in the Top 100 of iTunes technology category. The shows are consistently delivered, the upload process is efficient. I am able to manage an inventory of several 100 shows, grouped into multiple channels…. and I don’t get complaints from viewers… the system is just rock solid.

    3. in the Living Room… Yeah… Apple TV is far from huge… but its users are passionate. And I have to do nothing to be there. By uploading my video once. I can be in people’s living rooms. Plus other tools that playback MPEG-4 on TVs work too.

    4. Professional Uses – I am most excited about some of the niche uses for the tool. I am putting together an interactive motion graphics festival. Viewers can upload their entries, then judges can vote (all in HD in fact). We’ve also dabbled in their cool Narrowcast features so clients can view HD video of projects in progress. It is the easiest password protected system with HD delivery that I’ve seen, I can invite individuals, and then monitor how many times they’ve viewed video… This is truly useful for people on video production and advertising. Speaking of ads, I am just starting to work with the ad insertion. This is a little ahead of the market, but I have nibbles and clients who want to use it and see value to localize their message to specific regions.

    So in response… mDialog is not just about the iPhone. It’s other phones with web browsers. It’s TV sets. It’s the iTunes store and all iPods. It’s Zunes and PSPs. It’s Macs and PCs with web browsers. All I need to do is load up the file once, and the system knows what to do to hit six different markets. Do I know how to do this myself? Ccertainly. But nothing is easier or faster that I’ve found.

    I think this article only scratches the surface… I’ve got 4.000 web productions to my name. This piece of technology is essential and I am truly excited about what they are doing and where it seems to be going.

    -Richard Harrington
    RHED Pixel (www.RHEDPixel.com)

    1. Good to hear, Richard. Thanks for the testimonial.

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  6. Unbrick Psp Sunday, May 31, 2009

    Awesome post, you have answered many questions I have been search for the answer to!

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