DoCoMo, Apple MPEG-4 Phones Coming

Wireless giant NTT DoCoMo Wednesday said it is working with Apple Computer to put improved audio/video technology in its new handsets.

The technology, also known as Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), is a standard based on the MPEG-4 file format, which is heavily steeped in Apple’s QuickTime technology.

Tokyo-based NTT DoCoMo said it will support 3GPP and is expected to put the technology in its upcoming phones. A timeframe was not disclosed. The company said it will offer services that its customers can subscribe to such as watching news and sports clips in QuickTime. Customers can also watch movie trailers on their phone, find out where the movie is playing and then buy tickets.

For Apple, the partnership means greater expansion of its QuickTime platform, which competes with Microsoft Windows Media Player and RealNetworks Player. Because of Apple’s involvement, the content can be done in a variety of applications such as Cleaner or Final Cut Pro.

“This is the next step in the delivery of a promise we made when we announced QuickTime 6 with MPEG-4 capability,” Rhonda Stratton, senior product line manager, QuickTime, told MacCentral. “We started to see some things on the Internet with MPEG-4, but now we are seeing another industry pick up the standard for 3GPP, which is based on MPEG-4.”

Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple also said it will release a new version of QuickTime before the end of the year that will incorporate file formats and codecs used by DoCoMo. Currently, Apple supports QuickTime 6 player and QuickTime 6 Pro editor. Both support MPEG-4 audio/video.

The Moving Picture Experts Group created MPEG-4, having already created the MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 standards that enabled streaming video in CD-ROMs and digital television. MPEG-4 is a standard for delivering streaming content over the Web that is considered crucial for delivering high-quality audio and video to wireless devices.

Earlier this year, the MPEG-4 Industry Forum announced that 29 MPEG-4 vendors had completed three rounds of interoperability tests toward creating a standard for files to work with a variety of playback options.

DoCoMo Wednesday also took the wraps off of three new third-generation (3G) cellular phones.

Made by NEC , Fujitsu and Matsushita Electric, the handsets sport the usual functions like color screens, e-mail and calendar access and the like. But, the devices also support wideband code division multiple access (WCDMA) as well as long-life batteries that last about 170-180 hours in standby mode and tiny cameras.

The company estimates it will to sell 110,000 NEC handsets, 60,000 Fujitsu phones, and 130,000 units from Matsushita’s Panasonic brand.

Sales of 3G have not met company expectations. Since it launched its service last autumn, DoCoMo said it has only signed up 149,000 users, less than half of its revised March 2003 target of 320,000.

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