Windows Media Joins the Wireless World

You’d better believe major high-tech companies when they say they are going
to make their products compatible to wireless devices or networks. At least
believe they are going to try their darndest to fit their applications or
hardware products with mobile capabilities what with all of this talk about
2.5G and 3G– the much-talked-about future of wireless evolution.

Microsoft Corp. demonstrated as much Tuesday when it inked a deal with Intel
Corp. to make its popular Windows Media software compatible with the
chipmaker’s XScale
microprocessors utilizing the Intel Integrated Performance
Primitives (IPP)
— software finely-tuned for the creation of advanced
multimedia applications.

IPP consists of prewritten functions for math, image, speech, audio and
video processing to deliver greater application performance by accessing
each processor via optimized assembly language routines. In a sector where
flash memory and longer lasting batteries are key selling points to many
wireless consumers, Intel IPP can reduce battery consumption in mobile
devices through shorter execution times and help developers minimize time
and costs by letting an application be ported more quickly to multiple Intel

By helping their own software and processors evolve, the companies hope
their products will be attractive to the Palms and Handsprings of this
world, and other top makers of wireless devices; these hardware firms
realize the future of handhelds hinges on their abilities to deploy products
that can send and receive personal digital audio and video, as well as
stream digital music, Internet radio and visuals.

Microsoft and Intel have become serious about the future of wireless for
good reason. A May Gartner Group study noted that as various mobile devices
emerge for employees to use on a regular basis, enterprises must act now to
have wireless solutions in place to support these technologies; Gartner
analysts said there will be almost 800 million worldwide wireless data users
by 2004.

To prepare for this deluge, Gartner said at least 50 percent of Fortune 2000
companies will have to support three solutions — low-speed wireless data
only, voice plus Web access and high-speed wireless LAN access.

“Enterprises will be well-advised to remember that no single wireless access
network topology will meet anywhere near 80 percent of the requirements of
enterprise knowledge workers,” said Bob Egan, vice president and research
director for Gartner. “To a large extent, end users’ network requirements
will be driven by the devices they carry, their job roles and their

Gartner’s message, in summation, seems to be that enterprises should choose
their solutions wisely. In Intel’s and Microsoft’s cases, these are two
companies banding together to hammer out solutions for their products:
Windows Media will get the wireless exposure it craves; Intel will test its
mobile device chips against the rest of the market.

This is important for the chipmaker, whose competitors Advanced Micro Device
(AMD) and Transmeta have been peppering the sector with wireless chips of
their own. While Intel is planning on rolling out the Tualatin mobile
Pentium III chips in July, its Internet chip, which integrates a processor
core, flash memory, and DSP, is seen by some analysts as a market

Noting that Intel processors already power such devices as Compaq’s iPAQ
Pocket PC, Dave Fester, general manager of the Windows Digital Media
Division at Microsoft, said his company wanted to demonstrate its commitment
to wireless devices with Tuesday’s deal. However, what it also does is show
how major tech firms are choosing the more established brands, in this case
Intel, to further their own technological needs.

Along the lines of wireless progress, Microsoft Tuesday also contributed to
its own device, the Pocket PC, which incidentally surpassed the shipping
mark of 1 million total units last month. The software giant unleashed its
recently updated Windows Media 7.1 Player for the Pocket PC and announced a
preview of a new wireless digital media guide for mobile users, Mobile.

This bodes well for the Pocket PC, which is bested by the Palm line
by millions of units. Gartner’s Egan explained the success of the Pocket PC,
which was born April 19, 2000, with the help of partners Casio Inc., Compaq
Computer Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co.

“Good color screens and back-office integration have enabled the Pocket PC
to make some significant inroads during the past
year, in particular with its offerings for corporate customers,” said Egan.
“The momentum around connectivity solutions, developer support and
integration for the Pocket PC seems to be capturing the hearts and minds of
business decision-makers.”

Windows Media Player 7.1 for Pocket PC is being touted as an all-in-one
media player to support wireless access to digital audio and video for
Pocket PC users, as well as playback of audio and video content. The preview
of Mobile provides PDA users with access to Windows Media
audio and video content, which can be streamed to a Pocket PC over
high-speed wireless Internet access — specifically, but not limited to,
Metricom’s Ricochet Network or 802.11 wireless LANs.

Pocket PC users may scan such content as audio or video for news delivered
from CNET, MSNBC, Audible; streamed radio from The Village Voice, Rolling
StoneRadio, Radio Free Virgin, House of Blues, KFOG Radio, Cox Interactive
Media, Clear Channel Communications and Inc.; and music
videos from Interscope Geffen A&M, The Island/DefJam Music Group and

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