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3 Collaborate On Products For Multimedia Content Delivery

Apple Computer, Ericsson, and Sun Microsystems are developing products based on 3GPP standards for delivering multimedia content to mobile devices.

Apple Computer, Ericsson, and Sun Microsystems are joining forces to make it easier for network operators to deliver multimedia content such as movie clips and news to wireless devices.

The three are working on what they call the Ericsson content-delivery solution, which is based on 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) standards. Apple's QuickTime software, Sun's content-distribution software and servers, and Ericsson's wireless infrastructure are all being used to deliver a wireless content-delivery product based on 3GPP standards. The trio's goal is to develop products for delivering multimedia content to a variety of mobile devices, including cell phones, PDAs, and hybrids of the two. Apple says content developers could use QuickTime to create standard movie clips and would no longer need to reformat for multiple mediums.

Apple's QuickTime will compete with Microsoft's Windows Media Player and RealNetworks' RealPlayer as the standard MPEG-4 version used to deliver multimedia content to the Internet and wireless devices. However, Apple doesn't have a strong digital-rights management business model, which is needed to become a strong competitor, says Gartner research director Rob Batchelder. "There are lots who will develop using QuickTime," he says, "but those applications will be embedded into business models not of Apple's creation." Apple's Achilles' heel is its lack of server software, which media companies need, Batchelder says. To be a bigger threat to Microsoft and RealNetworks and more viable to media companies, Batchelder says, "Apple needs to get into the media server business or start writing software for other people's servers."

Microsoft has a Windows Media Player version on its Pocket PC 2002, which supports playback of downloaded audio and video content, and RealNetworks paired up with AT&T Wireless and other mobile operators last December to extend its RealPlayer to mobile devices on 2.5G data networks. However, a challenge remains in finding the right applications to drive use of wireless multimedia players and delivering them at a price that makes them attractive and accessible to users, says Jupiter Media Metrix analyst Joe Laszlo. Being able to transmit wireless video of an accident scene could save time and money for insurance agents filing a claim, Laszlo says, but "if carriers have to charge users per byte or per minute for streaming audio or video content, charges will mount up quickly," which is a potential hurdle to the adoption of wireless streaming media.

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