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W3C Embraces Scalable Vector Graphics Specs

Looking to help high-end handheld gadgets better adapt to the way video games and other graphics-oriented software are displayed, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Tuesday recommended Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) 1.1 and Mobile SVG profiles be anointed standards.

SVG is an open file format that enables two-dimensional images to be displayed in XML pages on the Web. SVG enables the viewing of an image on a computer display of any size and resolution. SVG also allows text within images to be recognized as such, so that the text can be located by a search engine and easily translated into other languages. Simply, SVG aims to help accomodate rich graphics that are viewed by users of the looming generation of souped up mobile devices, or 3G-based cell phones or pocket PCs.

SVG 1.1 separates SVG into reusable building blocks, and SVG Mobile recombines them in such a way that they are ideal for mobile devices, such as cell phones and personal digital assistants (PDAs).

The news met with the approval of Adobe, which sees SVG as a potential replacement to competitor Macromedia's Flash technology, and features SVG across its publishing product line.

"Adobe is very pleased that the SVG 1.1 and SVG Mobile specifications have become W3C Recommendations," the company said in a public statement. "SVG is a fundamental element of Adobe's Network Publishing strategy that will allow precise delivery of visually rich, personalized content in an XML syntax."

The W3C said the graphical capabilities of SVG 1.1 are the same as those of the SVG 1.0, which has been a W3C recommendation since September 2001. The difference, the group said, is in the way the script is designed. The Document Type Definition (DTD) was a single unit in SVG 1.0, while in SVG 1.1, the DTD is divided into more agile building blocks that can be put together in different ways.

Meanwhile, the consortium looks to bring multimedia to the gaggle of mobile devices that has saturated the market. While handheld gadgets have faced challenges in terms of the quality of information displayed on tiny screens, W3C hopes to help meet that challenge with the Mobile SVG spec.

Because the screens can display technologies such as XHTML , SMIL and SVG, the group used SVG 1.1 to make two subsets of SVG -- SVG Tiny, aimed at multimedia-ready cell phones such as 3G units, and SVG Basic for handheld computers.

SVG Tiny makes it possible to send a colorful animated multimedia message, while SVG Basic makes working in the enterprise more efficient by letting workers consult relevant graphics on a pocket computer, which is updated on the fly over a wireless network connected to the XML information hub of the company.

"Cell phones allow Internet and Web access for millions of people who don't have access to desktop machines, temporarily or otherwise," said Dean Jackson, W3C Fellow from CSIRO. "With 3GPP already incorporating Mobile SVG, we are already starting to see more rich and useful content in third generation cell phones."

The group's experimentation with Scalable Vector Graphics is ongoing, as the W3C said developers are testing the dynamism of SVG 1.1 building blocks by combining them with other W3C technologies. For example, SVG and XForms were bundled to construct graphically rich input forms. Also, SVG and SMIL Basic were merged to combine vector graphics with streaming audio and video.

Fifteen implementations were tested in November 2002, including SVG Tiny implementations from Bitflash, CSIRO, KDDI, Nokia, ZOOMON and SVG Basic implementations from Bitflash, CSIRO and Intesis. As a result of these trials, SVG implementations are available now from multiple vendors for cell phones or PDAs, in addition to the number of implementations for desktop and laptop computers.

The SVG Working Group includes members from the following companies: Adobe, AOL, BitFlash, Canon, Corel, CSIRO, Eastman Kodak, Ericsson and HP.