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Virgin Lobster fails to spawn

Less then 10K sold, mobile TV not a hit

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Virgin mobile has sold "considerably less" than 10,000 of their mobile-TV-enabled Lobster handsets, despite Pamela Anderson’s advertising and cutting the price to below a hundred quid, according to The Guardian.

Virgin won't confirm the figures, but it's clear that sales are disappointing. This should not come as any surprise: the Lobster was never an attractive handset, and in a business largely driven by owning the coolest-looking handset it was always going to be a hard sell.

How this reflects on the viability of mobile video is hard to gauge: O2 claims that a lack of channels stunted the service, but as it is trying to promote the rival DVB-H technology, that's unsurprising. The Virgin service uses DAB (digital radio) frequencies to broadcast video: a technology which requires no new infrastructure but has less bandwidth available.

The broadcast service used by Virgin was developed by Movio, a branch of BT, and the Lobster was the first handset to support the service. Better-looking handsets which feature Movio compatibility rather than being built around the TV service, are awaiting public announcement, and they should be a lot cooler.

Virgin and Movio will hope they are: mobile TV as a feature might sell to customers, but mobile TV as a killer application clearly won't. ®

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