Packet Video jumps the gun, with mobile Windows Media Nine

by Guy Kewney | posted on 04 September 2002

Do you expect to watch video on your mobile phone or PDA? Tune in ... today is Microsoft's big day for multimedia, as it launches Windows Media 9 Series But it has jumped the gun to push out news of a special WM9S deal for wireless. Partner Packet Video has been allowed to announce its deal with Microsoft early, revealing much of what will emerge tonight at Microsoft's Hollywood launch.

Guy Kewney

The first sight that ordinary users will get of the products of this deal, will probably be when they start sending and receiving multimedia messages on mobile phones (MMS) of either audio or video clips.

The deal means that PacketVideo's pv3 Mobile Media System "will become the first wireless solution to support Windows Media 9," the company said. "Consumers will be able to benefit from the improved video and audio performance offered by Windows Media 9 via their mobile devices.

The deal means that a version of Windows Media Player will, effectively, be bundled with any phone, or PDA or other wireless-connected mobile device, even if it doesn't have Windows as its operating system, says Ed Knapp, who has been selling PacketVideo's technology to phone-carrier companies and phone makers.

PacketVideo will now offer Windows Media Audio and Video 9 Series as an option to PacketVideo's customers within its embedded mobile-media solutions for handsets and as part of its pvServer for content delivery.

This doesn't meant that PacketVideo will be dropping MPEG-4 for Windows Media, says Knapp: "We're offering the best in class of both technologies; wireless has adopted MPEG 4, but we will also offer them WM so that we become a one-stop shop, and our customers don't have to deal with anybody else."

Or, to put it in rather more orthodox corporate-speak: "Our customers want flexibility in designing new products and services," said Dr. James Brailean, chief executive officer of PacketVideo. "The addition of Windows Media 9 Series is a great complement to our current 3GPP products, offering a combination of leading technologies that give customers the choice they want."

He went on in similar vein with phrases like "a new era of cooperation" and "will drive the wireless industry forward" ... "successful deployment of innovative multimedia services" and "enhance communications, information and entertainment to bring people closer together."

What it really tells us is just how important Microsoft thinks MMS is going to be. It is doing deals on multimedia all over the place - this evening, in Hollywood will surprise many with just how comprehensive this has been getting. But PacketVideo is the first to be allowed to talk about it in public - ahead of Bill Gates's own keynote speech at the Kodak Theatre.

This isn't an accidental leak, either. The release is endorsed by the senior Microsoftie in charge of WM9S - Will Poole (who met our Hunky Mouse a week or so ago) - vice president of Windows Digital Media division. He said: "Coupled with the launch of Windows Media 9 Series, this agreement opens up new opportunities for wireless operators to access the wealth of high-quality Windows Media content available on the Web, and for content owners to use a secure, high-quality format to reach the vast array of new, media-enabled wireless devices around the world."

The ironic point is that this may put Windows onto Symbian and other operating system platforms. PacketVideo sells an integrated service - end-to-end for wireless operators and wireless device makers, and reckons that they won't want to be left out, whichever way the market goes with MMS.

PacketVideo's pvServer is quite widely accepted by wireless operators, and adopted by 3G organisations like third generation partnership project (3GPP) and 3GPP2. It will be extended to allow for integration of Windows Media Services 9 Series in Windows .NET Server to deliver Windows Media content. PacketVideo also will use Microsoft .NET standards-based SOAP and XML interfaces to deliver both standards-based and Windows Media 9 Series formats.

"MPEG-4 and Windows Media are clearly the pre-eminent media formats for wireless. Soon consumers will have handsets that can play both types of content," said Gerry Kaufhold, principal analyst with In-Stat/MDR, a leading market research firm. "Microsoft's collaboration with PacketVideo on mobile digital media is a huge step forward for consumers and the wireless industry as a whole."