While the popularity of mobile ringtones is self-evident, it might seem premature to call the full song and video clip downloads a hot application. But the technology will be in users' hands and on carriers' networks sooner than most might think. There are now two full-fledged 3G networks in operation (albeit in limited markets) in the U.S., and Sprint is expected to launch its 1X EV-DO network next year. Those networks give the capacity to support full song downloads and higher-resolution video clips more than a few seconds in length. According to the Zelos Group, 45 million full-feature media-capable handsets will be in the global market by the end of the year. While most of those will be sold in Asia and, to a lesser extent, Europe, U.S. carriers have already begun experimenting with advanced multimedia, especially in messaging. With the launch of AT&T Wireless' UMTS consumer offer, the U.S. has the first commercial service necessary to support the full range of video content being offered by RealNetworks and other content providers.
A content aggregator, an application developer and an infrastructure vendor, RealNetworks seems to have all aspects of the wireless multimedia market nailed. RealNetworks has built versions of its RealPlayer client for mobile devices; optimized its Helix server, gateway and back-office technology for wireless networks; and provided four hours of sports, news and entertainment video content every day through media partnerships. It's only a matter of time before its music download service, Rhapsody, goes mobile.
One doesn't tend to think "security" when one thinks of hot applications, but Perseus' new VideoServer technology actually allows users to view closed-circuit television and IP video from security cams directly on their mobile handsets. It's not that far of a stretch to consider the possibility of video baby monitors and unwired nanny cams.
While direct music downloads over the wireless WAN might be a while off, MusicGremlin is doing the next best thing: downloads over the wireless LAN. The company's technology and proposed music portal are intended to bring the equivalent of iTunes to the handset.
OnAir is taking television to the Wi-Fi hot spot. It has created a media server that turns a laptop connected to a wireless LAN into a television and personal video recorder.
A stalwart in the wireless industry, Comverse's new Mobile Video Portal is delivered via a telephony session, allowing not only for live and recorded downloads but also for video mail and even future video telephony applications.
In the last year, the technology behind mobile gaming has made radical leaps. Developers are using the better processors of new handsets to create games that are more detailed graphically and more robust in gameplay. New interface technologies make gameplay much more natural, while compression technology facilitates easier downloads. Perhaps most exciting is the introduction of more real-time multiplayer gaming, thanks to improvements in capacity and latency of over-the-air connections. The industry is likely to be rewarded for its innovations. While mobile gaming was merely a $100 million industry in 2003, InStat/MDR expects it to grow into an industry generating $1.8 billion in 2009.
A game developer and publisher developed solely for wireless, Sorrent is dispelling the notions that handset games are boring, slow low-resolution counterparts to their PC equivalents. Its Fox Sports Football game, designed for BREW and Java handsets, features everything from detailed play animation to changing weather conditions.
The buttons and interfaces on mobile phones often make dialing phone numbers difficult, much less playing games. Atrua is developing a touch-based "haptic" user interface, which converts intuitive finger movements into commands that could not only guide a small car across a tiny handset screen but could also dial a number or initiate a secure password.
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