Is Visual Radio a Nokia Innovation that Will Make a Difference?

Visual Radio

Yesterday I suggested that it's a mistake to take Nokia's innovation potential lightly at this time. My point is underscored by the Engagdet article about Nokia and Hewlett-Packard's joint announcement of Visual Radio. Until I read this, I hadn't heard of Visual Radio and I'm still not sure what it's impact will be on the market.

An article in Forbes attempts to flesh out the business potential of Visual Radio and provides some information about Nokia customers' handset use that I was not aware of. The article says:

One often overlooked feature on several Nokia phones is the ability to receive FM radio signals, many of the company's phones have been equipped to receive FM radio signals. {sic} Nokia reckons that 77% its customers who use the simple radio feature tend to use it about once a week, and consider it important. Now the company wants to make the mobile phone the preferred way of listening to the radio and accessing related content.

One of the problems I see with Visual Radio is that it will be tough to turn this into a trendy service unless it's widely available. I don't know how this is going to happen in the USA unless they make a deal with a big network, like Clear Channel, Emmis Communications, or Infinity Radio.

Another problem is the form factor. Every mockup I've seen of Visual Radio is based on the Nokia 7700, a large Series 90 handheld that doesn't have a keypad and isn't available yet. Is this what you thought your next mobile phone would look like? Probably not. I'm sure they have plans to deliver it on a variety of devices, but they need to show people what Visual Radio will look like on those platforms.

Having said all of this, I like the idea. Visual Radio could make the experience of listening to radio more of an active-mind activity. From a commercial perspective, it has the potential to be a great integration platform for iTunes for digital content and Amazon Web Services for physical goods. I think this is an idea that has good to very good potential, but, it's not the market changing product that the iPod and iTunes has been for Apple recently.