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Streaming Media to Mobile Audiences

Mobile Streaming Versus Messaging
In general, mobile streaming media experiences are brief. The main difference between mobile streaming and messaging is that with streaming, the media begins playing quickly after a user request. The content streamed from the server is typically commercially prepared. Since the files are not stored in the user’s handset, all kinds of intellectual property/copyright and handset design issues are skirted.

According to Dror Zelber, product manager at Emblaze Systems, the two most promising usage paradigms for video streaming are portals (where users browse and select clips they want to watch), and "push engines" (where a server automatically sends subscribers alerting messages when new mobile-ready content fitting their preference profile and/or whereabouts becomes available). Mobile streaming video portals are commercially deployed today and push engines will be available in the near future. Depending upon service provider and service plan, prices for streaming media clips typically range from $0.25 to $1.00 for a half-minute clip, to on "all-you-can-watch" package ranging from $5 to $15 per month.

In addition to Emblaze, RealNetworks and PacketVideo are very active in this market. For example, subscribers of RealOne for mMode, a new service combining RealNetworks’ technology and expertise with AT&T Wireless service, have access to hours of content, including frequently refreshed news and business updates, entertainment, sports, and weather. PacketVideo is differentiating itself as a "mobilemedia" technology provider focusing on the delivery of MPEG-4-based, embedded software for advanced mobile handsets and solutions for mobile network operators.

In contrast with mobile streaming of canned content, mobile video messaging involves capturing, uploading, and downloading entire clips as files, and sending them to other users on PCs or mobile handsets as Multimedia Messages (MMS), similar to a photo and sound clip. Applications for mobile video messaging are expected to include personal video greeting cards, mini-press interviews, and newsreels, on-the-ground video reports from service technicians in the field and executives’ directives to their subordinates.

To record a clip, mobile camera-phones are morphing into mobile camcorder phones, including a built-in 640 x 480 pixel color camera capable of capturing media to the handset’s memory. Clips range from a few seconds to a few minutes long, consuming somewhere between a few hundred Kilobytes and a few Megabytes of memory. Downloading or uploading a video message typically takes a half-minute to a few minutes on a 2.5G GSM-GPRS network and pricing is similar to streaming service rates cited previously.

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