The Matrix - coming to a mobile phone near you

Streaming Media Europe: With phones like the Nokia 3650 able to stream full-motion video, who needs a land line?

Mobile phones played an important role in the film The Matrix. So it seemed only fitting that when RealNetworks gave one of the first public demonstrations on Wednesday of a movie clip being streamed to a mass-market mobile phone -- the Nokia 3650, which is due to ship early in 2003 -- the movie took centre stage.

The 3650, which was unveiled in September, will be one of the first phones to be based on Nokia's Series 60 platform -- a package of applications and a user interface built on the Symbian 6.1 operating system. One of the applications included in the Series 60 platform is RealNetworks' RealOne Player, which in its mobile phone form can play back MPEG-4, H263 and RealVideo content streamed over GPRS networks.

At Streaming Media Europe, RealNetworks was showing off a pre-production 3650 playing streamed clips from The Matrix in all three formats. Showgoers seemed to be unanimous in declaring the RealVideo version of the clip -- Neo's fight scene -- superior to the other two formats, which said one observer, "looked a bit pixelly".

Users can already stream video clips to heftier devices such as the Nokia 9210i, but the 3650 will be one of the first mass-market phones to support streaming; it is expected to cost between £200 and £300, depending on network deals, when it launches.

It is also possible to stream content to smartphones using Finish software company Oplayo's proprietary Motion Vector Quantization (MVQ) technology. This month, Oplayo is due to ship its Oplayo J2ME Java video player which will work on mass-market Java-enabled phones such as the Nokia 7650, 7210 and 3510i. The Oplayo player is downloaded with the video stream, so does not have to ship with the phone, but it is devices such as the Nokia 3650 with a built-in player that can accept a range of streaming media formats that are expected to drive the market.

The Nokia 3650 includes a built-in digital camera and a 176x208 pixels colour screen that supports 4096 colours. It also has an XHTML browser and supports several multiplayer games, which can be played via infrared or Bluetooth.

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