Phone 2.0

It’s beginning to sound quaint to call that gizmo we keep with us all the time a “telephone.” Maybe we should coin a new term for the ever-expanding universe of things we can do with it — perhaps Phone 2.0.

Now, in addition to getting directions and connecting with your Facebook buddies, you can connect your phone to the expanding universe of digital content with Cupertino, CA-based Navio’s content delivery system.

Navio is created from the consumer’s perspective.

For example, when you buy a DVD you can play it on a DVD player or your PC. You can lend it or share it. But when you buy digital content, it’s linked to a specific device — an iPod, PC, or TV. If you lose your hard drive, you lose all the songs, movies or anything else you’ve downloaded on it.

Navio has come up with a way that lets you preserve your right to content separately from the device you’re using it on. Instead of buying a physical file, you buy the “right” to it.

“It allows people to shop in a more normal way,” explains company COO Ray Schaaf.

That right goes into your “digital locker” — think of it as a virtual iPod that Navio maintains for you. You can use what you’ve bought — ringtones, wallpapers, songs, concert tickets, movie clips — on any device. Including your new disk drive.

The company says that this model gives consumers more flexibility while protecting artists and copyright holders.

“It allows distributed commerce. The right can be located and transacted anyplace,” says Julie Schenkman, Navio VP of Marketing. “It’s a real world model.”

The concept is getting traction. Navio has some marquee-quality customers including Walt Disney Internet Group, Music Choice, and Fox Sports. Now the company is expanding its customer base beyond content companies.

Today Navio announced a deal with Verizon that will let the carrier’s customers buy mobile content from Navio-powered Web and mobile storefronts. Content is delivered to the phone via SMS messaging and billed through Verizon. Customers need to have Verizon’s data service.

For media and entertainment companies, linking up with Navio instantly extends their potential market to the customers of the US second largest cellular carrier.

But why put this on a phone?

Distribution via the Web will always be important, but “the phone is a portable device and portable is the way it’s [the market’s] going,” explains Schaaf. “It’s something everyone uses, everyone carries around. A lot of promising opportunity centers around the cell phone. It’s much more personal, a one-to-one relationship.”

Next thing you know, you’ll be tuning in to YouTube on the phone. Oh, wait. That was announced last week.