As Microsoft and RealNetworks step up the battle for dominance of streaming video to mobile phones, a small Finnish company could be set to usurp both the established names.
Oplayo, a spin-off from the Finnish government's VTT Labs, uses a Java-based technology developed at the labs that in theory can stream audio and video to any Java phone. According to research firm The Zelos Group, Java will run on 450 million handsets by 2007, or three-quarters of those that ship that year.
"Until early 2002, we were very much a fixed Internet company," said Oplayo's European vice president Philip O'Ferrall. Oplayo technology was used to provide corporate streaming to PCs -- it enables video to be seamlessly embedded in a Web page, and viewed without a plug-in on any Java-enabled browser. "This means video streamed using our Motion Vector Quantisation (MVQ) technology can pass easily through firewalls for corporate presentations, and can be embedded in email for marketing campaigns," he added.
Mobile phones do require a client, called Oplayer, if they are to play the MVQ content, but this can be downloaded to a Java phone using WAP, MMS, or infrared, said O'Ferrall. Combinations of these delivery modes open up a number of possibilities for content providers. "You can send a 30-second Java ringtone, or vidlet, to a phone, and then use this to view a midlet," he said. A midlet is a small piece of software that will decode a particular piece of high-value video.
Oplayo currently offers some mobile phone content through its Mobile Media Club, which contains a Reuters video feed and other content. The Reuters content costs £1 for six hours' worth, although content regarded as high value, such as the current favourite, "How to pull a porn star", which accounts for over 20 percent of downloads, costs £1 for the item. O'Farrell believes consumers will be willing to pay this price -- which is about the same that is charged for logos and ringtones. The price is added to the phone bill and revenue split between the network, the content creator, and Oplayo depending on the content agreement.
For now the software need to create MVQ video is available several ways. "A television station might pay for delivery licences, say 10,000 streams," said O'Ferrall. "Or we can work on a revenue-sharing basis, where there is no upfront commitment." There are currently no plans to produce an encoder for individual use, though Sony does supply Oplayo software called Composer Pro 2.0 Lite with its PDX10 video camera. "We don't offer this package ourselves," said O'Farell,"though if someone else wanted to take it on and publish it we'd be happy."