Apple, Ericsson, Sun Unite For Streaming Media

Alliance looks to build MPEG-4 wireless content delivery solution

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Apple Computer, Ericsson and Sun Microsystems on Tuesday formed an alliance that aims to allow network operators to transmit standardized multimedia content to mobile devices such as cellular phones and PDAs.

The partnership plans to create a carrier-grade, end-to-end platform--dubbed the Ericsson Content Delivery Solution. The platform will use Apple's new MPEG-4-based QuickTime software for content creation and encoding, Sun's scalable software and systems for content distribution, and Ericsson's wireless infrastructure and services for mobile operators.

"The Content Delivery Solution will open up new revenue streams for operators by providing users with high-quality multimedia services, such as movie clips and instant news on demand," said Torbjorn Nilsson, senior vice president of marketing and strategic business development at Ericsson, in a statement. "The cooperation with Apple and Sun ensures availability of multimedia content, thus bridging the media industry with the mobile community."

At its QuickTime Live event in Los Angeles on Tuesday, Apple previewed QuickTime 6, which features full support of the emerging MPEG-4 standard for streaming media content. The Cupertino-based computer maker also unveiled QuickTime Streaming Server 4 software and previewed QuickTime Broadcaster live Internet broadcast software. Together, QuickTime 6, QuickTime Streaming Server 4 and QuickTime Broadcaster form the first complete MPEG-4-based streaming media solution, according to Apple.

"We're excited that Ericsson chose QuickTime for the Content Delivery Solution," said Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide product marketing, in a statement. "QuickTime is widely used by content developers, and the Mac is the platform of choice for the creative community."

The International Organization for Standards (ISO) has selected QuickTime as the file format for MPEG-4, according to Apple, which along with Sun is a co-founder of the Internet Streaming Media Alliance (ISMA).

Apple reported earlier this month that its QuickTime Player software drew 80 million new users in 2001, topping the 75 million new users of RealOne and RealPlayer software garnered last year by rival RealNetworks. Apple said QuickTime 5, the most recent QuickTime version, is on track to reach 100 million downloads by April 2002, a year after the software was released.

QuickTime Streaming Server 4 is available now as a free download from Apple's QuickTime Web site. Apple didn't disclose a release date for QuickTime Broadcaster but said it also would be a free download.

Though QuickTime 6 is set to go, Apple said it would delay the software's release until MPEG-4 video licensing terms are improved.

The company said the MPEG-4 licensing terms proposed by MPEG-LA, the largest group of MPEG-4 patent holders, includes royalty payments from companies such as Apple that ship MPEG-4 codecs, as well as royalties from content providers that use MPEG-4 to stream video.

Apple said it agrees with paying a reasonable royalty for including MPEG-4 codecs in QuickTime, but it doesn't believe that MPEG-4 can succeed in the marketplace if content owners also must pay royalties to deliver their content using MPEG-4.

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