New Forum to Decide on Wireless Multimedia

FRAMINGHAM (04/21/2000) - A group of industry heavyweights is to band together to decide how to best deliver multimedia content to wireless Internet devices.

The Wireless Multimedia Forum (WMF), a consortium of 16 vendors including PacketVideo, Cisco Systems Inc. and Nortel Networks Corp., will meet in San Jose, California, to begin defining how to help content creators author rich media such as audio and video presentations once and deliver it to any IP-ready wireless device.

Conspicuous by their absence are the leaders in streaming media technology:

RealNetworks Inc. and Microsoft Corp. Martin Hall, chief technology officer of Stardust.com, the company that is managing the forum, says that in the rush to get the forum up and running, these companies have not yet been approached, and it is just a matter of time before they're asked to get involved.

"By using different format types you create a subset of noninteroperable devices, and no one wins in that situation," Hall says. "The bottom line is we don't want to have a fragmentation of standards for wireless multimedia delivery."

Hall emphasizes that the WMF will not be a standards-creating body. The group will work with the WAP (wireless application protocol) Forum, Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and others to come up with the best approach for handling rich media.

Founded by PacketVideo, a company dedicated to delivering multimedia content to wireless devices, the WMF will choose which existing audio and video compression standards are best suited for a wireless environment and recommend their use to wireless carriers, service providers and device manufacturers.

Hall expects that the MPEG4 digital video standard will be a major point of discussion at this week's meetings. The group will also discuss quality of service, digital rights management and security issues.

Iain Gillott, an analyst at Framingham, Massachusetts-based market research firm International Data Corp. (IDC), predicts the number of wireless devices connected to the Net will be three times greater than the number of PCs connected by the end of 2002, resulting in more than 100 million wireless Internet devices.

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