Wireless Developers Eye Multimedia

Encouraged by the success of text messaging, wireless handset makers and their partners are banking on the next phase-multimedia.

Encouraged by the success of text messaging, wireless handset makers and their partners are banking on the next phase—multimedia.

PacketVideo Corp. will announce this week at the GSM World Congress in Cannes, France, a multimedia distribution system. While the company has released software for handsets in the past, this system is designed for wireless carriers.

PV3 Mobilemedia System includes an encoder, a storage and distribution server, and a player that can be downloaded to Microsoft Corp. Pocket PC devices or embedded in handsets with processing and storage capabilities for multimedia applications.

The system supports MPEG 4-compatible clients and Solaris, Linux and HP-UX platforms on the back end. Chief among the systems features is FastTrack Download, which lets users download and view a video or audio clip and suspend and resume the download. For carriers, PV3 Mobilemedia System includes graphing software to ease integration of multimedia into billing systems.

Several companies will be demonstrating PacketVideos technology at the show, including Hewlett-Packard Co., Motorola Inc. and Symbian Ltd.

Carriers in Europe and Asia will likely launch the system by years end, but it may take several more months for it to appear in the United States, officials said.

Potential customers agree wireless services are only as good as the network.

"The data rates arent there for much beyond jerky talking heads a la Max Headroom," said Kevin Baradet, network systems director at the S.C. Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University, in Ithaca, N.Y., and an eWeek Corporate Partner.

PacketVideo, of San Diego, is in trials with Japanese carrier NTT DoCoMo Inc. to create two-way videoconferencing applications for phones.

In the meantime, Apple Computer Inc., Ericsson AB and Sun Microsystems Inc. have plans to develop their own platform for delivery of multimedia content from carriers to wireless devices.

The platform will use MPEG-4 compression and Apples QuickTime streaming software for content creation. Sun will contribute streaming software, and Ericsson will work with the carriers on infrastructure. Known as the Ericsson Content Delivery Solution, the platform should be available to carriers by the end of the year, said Apple officials, in Cupertino, Calif.

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