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PacketVideo Updates Wireless Streaming Platform

San Diego-based PacketVideo (www.packetvideo.com) announced the latest version of its wireless streaming solution, called PVPlatform 2.0. The platform includes an encoder (PVAuthor), transmission server (PVServer), and playback software (PVPlayer).

PacketVideo is MPEG-4 compliant, and works with other MPEG-4 systems, said Anjeanette Retting, VP of corporate communications. "If MPEG4 is ratified," she said, "PacketVideo will interoperate. We're working very actively because standards are very important to [wireless] carriers." PacketVideo says that its core customers are the wireless carriers, but it has been making deals with content companies, as well as chip companies and manufacturers.

A new feature is something PacketVideo calls FrameTrack, a technology that dynamically delivers streaming files, even when bandwidth changes. If bandwidth slows to a trickle, FrameTrack can adjust the bit rate so it maintains the stream quality. This is similar to RealNetworks SureStream technology, but Retting claims that PacketVideo offers smaller files compared to Real. However, said Retting, encoding a file with FrameTrack does take longer than a file not using the technology.

PacketVideo also announced it has made a deal with Switzerland telecommunications provider, Swisscom Mobile, to run a field trial using the new PVPlatform 2.0 suite. According to Retting, PacketVideo is running "17 trials in 11 countries."


The Guts

The encoder, PVAuthor 2.0, is MPEG-4 compliant and handles live and on-demand delivery. It includes recommended encoding settings so that developers can quickly get started encoding. It now offers Voice-Over-Picture, a feature that allows developers to stream audio along with a still video frame. The authoring software is currently available for Windows NT, 2000 and 98.

PVServer 2.0 is the server, which runs on Solaris, HP-UX and Linux platforms. It allows for streaming and downloadable clips. It is also customizable, so that carriers can add billing, location, e-commerce and other plug-ins. Retting said that the server isn't available on Windows since wireless "carriers don't use Microsoft Servers." The system comes with reporting tools, so carriers can bill by a variety of ways: clips streamed, time or kilobyte.

The player now includes support for metadata, and has a bookmark/history feature for quickly accessing favorite clips. PVPlayer also can also show clips in "landscape" mode (in effect, turning the screen sideways) making use of the entire device screen.


Wireless Content

But what's wireless streaming without content? Retting said that content is part of PacketVideo's plan. "This is personalized and customized [content]," she said "It's important for the person on the go to have shorter form content. "

Some of its customers include media and content companies. So far, about 50 media and Internet companies, including Fox Filmed Entertainment, Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros., have signed on.

PacketVideo unveiled its "PVAirguide" in December, as a wireless multimedia showcase. Users with Windows-powered PDAs can stream or download a variety of audio and video clips. Browsing through the list of PacketVideo's content reveals some popular entertainment sites (including AtomFilms, Cnet, and Sputnik7.com), but it also includes content companies like Z.com and Icebox, which have recently closed down.

Despite some of its content partners, Retting says that content for wireless and handheld devices is inherently different than what's on the Web now. For one, she says, providers don't have to re-encode content. "It's not repurposed content," she said. "We're different than what's now on TV or the Internet. These are new apps, short messages like traffic."

With all the inherent problems in plain old Web streaming, Retting is confident that it's not too soon to start talking about wireless streaming. "I don't want to overhype this," she said, "but all of the pieces are coming together now. They're jelling at the same time."

PacketVideo's fortunes seem to be jelling as well. The company is currently on track to get a sizeable fifth round of financing. But the company's player has been downloaded 40,000 times — not an overwhelming number when you consider how hot the PDA and wireless markets are touted.

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