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Delivering Television Anywhere

Apr 14, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Television 24/7/365 is fast becoming the new reality as telephony and broadcasting converge to enable the next generation of PVPs (portable video players) that will power “TV to Go.” While manufacturers of PCs, laptops, PDAs and even some mobile phones are retrofitting to transmit and receive streaming video, new specs and new products are evolving for the next generation of “screenagers,” who want their TV anytime and everywhere.
Picture messaging and mobile phone cameras are seen as building blocks for the yellow brick road to the ultimate electronic Oz of broadcast distribution of music, video and multimedia content, including TV transmission to mobile devices. Previewed at the DVB 2003 conference in Dublin, Ireland, this month, a new technology combining digital video broadcast and 3G mobile telephony, called DVB-X, is a one-to-many broadcast system that transmits multimedia content to a large audience via mobile handsets. Goeran Wahlberg, Nokia’s director of concepts and technology, told conference attendees that DVB-X will become a mandatory spec for handheld devices.
“Broadcast TV to phones is still 12 to 18 months away,” explained Mark Desautels, VP of wireless Internet development for the wireless industry trade organization Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association. He said that his group is taking a number of steps to work with the entertainment industry to facilitate pre-eminent content to mobile devices and ensure high-quality reception for the user. Mr. Desautels states that DRM (digital rights management) issues regarding video transmission are on the table and will be a priority in the next three months.
Europeans, meanwhile, are getting the first taste of “takeout TV” as part of a video pilot to transmit Internet material to mobile phones. Sonera (Finland’s major communications operator) launches its beta video service this week that enables customers using the Nokia 3650 phone, or other devices with RealOne Mobile Players from Real Networks, to watch videos. Viewers will get their choice of MTV3’s morning news, Nelonen’s 4Pop (a pop-culture broadcast) and Kaista music videos.
New Ways of Using the Phone
Broadcasters are intently watching the evolution of 3G technology in the telecom industry, according to John Marino, VP, science and technology, National Association of Broadcasters. “However, at this stage we are not sure if this new broadcast platform will be 3G [telephony] or Wi-Fi [a wireless radio transmission frequency]; both of these of these technologies have the potential to offer consumers alternative ways to receive broadcast content,” he said.
Meantime, the brightest stars on the broadcasting horizon appear to be the launch video playback devices. Stealing the spotlight is Microsoft’s Media2Go software platform, which is built around Windows CE.Net and was developed by its embedded systems group. Microsoft began shipping Intel Xscale-based reference hardware in March. Aubrey Edwards, director of marketing for Microsoft’s embedded and appliance platforms group, said that Media2Go is designed to be used as a playback device. “Media2Go provides consumers with the ability to not only choose when to watch their favorite recorded TV content but also where they watch this content,” she said.
Creative Technology, developer of the Nomad range of MP3 players, is partnering with Microsoft to create a line of these portable media playback systems. A built-in hard drive holds music, video and photos. OEM partners can add varying screen sizes (from 3 inches to 6 or 7 inches) and even integrated LCD panels. Microsoft is counting on users recording and storing content somewhere else, most likely on a PC or any number of products that provide personal video recorder support for the PC, and then downloading it to their players using a method called sync ‘n’ go.
The Media2Go systems will feature a 20 gigabyte hard drive said to be enough to hold more than 8,000 music files, 175 hours of digital quality video or up to 30,000 photographs by compressing almost 40 gigabyte of data onto the 20 gigabytes. The catch, some critics said, is that the video is VCR-level-quality and battery life is six hours for video and 12 for music, but life can depend on the kind of batteries you use. Microsoft said that other OEMs are joining creative on this new mobile media bandwagon and by Christmas 2003 it may be possible to get MTV and more to go. Of course, you first have to record it and download it to store it on the device.
Microsoft is not first in this category, though, since other MPEG-4 video playback systems are already on the market. Archos’ range of products now features a 20 gigabyte multimedia player that handles DIVX and MPEG-4 video playback, and Korea’s Impactra device is already built on a Windows CE platform and is a popular choice in Asia.
Until the new playback devices and phones hit shelves, consumers can get TV to Go using interim options. Cable channels, such as CNN and MTV, are available on Sirius or XM Satellite radio systems. Pocket PC and Palm PDA owners can turn to Web sites such as Mazingo.net to download content to their devices and programming from Fox Sports, The Weather Channel, NBC and more.