Tokyo-based NTT DoCoMo Inc. unveiled three new handsets for its 3G (third generation) cellular service on Tuesday and also announced support for 3GPP, a technology based on Apple’s QuickTime. Apple also confirmed today the release of a new version of QuickTime before the end of the year to support the initiative in Japan.
The 3GPP standard is based on the MPEG-4 file format — an open standard format, MPEG-4 is based on Apple’s QuickTime technology.
“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.”
DoCoMo 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.
Analysts see the adoption of QuickTime by DoCoMo as a way for Apple to broaden its customer base and to have customers associate the QuickTime brand when they buy content.
“Apple is struggling to get closer to commercially distributed content,” Ryan Jones, an analyst with The Yankee Group, said in an interview today. “They are falling behind Microsoft and Real in terms of associating their format with for-pay content — the announcement from DocoMo may pave the way for that.”
Microsoft and Real incorporate Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology in their file format, giving companies an added feeling of security when publishing their content. This, Jones thinks, could be a disadvantage for Apple.
“The big hurdle that QuickTime has to clear is that it isn’t a nicely bundled solution of video creation management and security,” said Jones. “They don’t have some of the content management and DRM capabilities that Real and Microsoft have.”
Authoring content for the service can be done in a variety of applications such as Cleaner, Final Cut Pro and a new version of QuickTime, that Apple said would be released by the end of 2002. The new version will feature support for the file format and codecs used by DoCoMo.
“We’ve opened the platform to a whole new industry — this is big for the adoption of MPEG-4 and the standards-based approach,” said Brian Croll, Apple’s senior director software, Worldwide Product Marketing. “Ultimately this positions Apple as the platform of choice for content creation.”
You don’t need to be a content provider or QuickTime authoring professional to take advantage of DoCoMo’s service. The new handsets have the capability to take pictures, which can be e-mailed to a computer. The files can then be opened by the QuickTime application on the computer. Of course the reverse is also true; files sent from a computer can be viewed on the phones.
“It seems the leading application here [with DoCoMo’s service] is personal content; QuickTime has shown to be the superior platform for that,” said Jones.
While support for QuickTime has only been announced in Japan, Apple confirmed that they were working with Ericsson in Europe to look at ways of implementing similar technology. Several companies in the United States are conducting tests, but it is too early to tell when it could be rolled out in that country.
Apple has been fighting Windows Media Player and RealNetworks on the personal computer for years, but Jones thinks taking the battle to a different area may be good for Apple.
“The only place QuickTime is going to get a leg up over Microsoft and Real is away from the PC,” Jones said. “They are doing the right thing; they started some momentum with the digital cameras using QuickTime and consumers are getting used to hearing the QuickTime name associated with those devices. Now the challenge is to spread it to other corners of the home.”
Apple has preached the benefits of its open standards approach to QuickTime and MPEG-4 since it was first introduced earlier this year. Companies adopting MPEG-4 for its devices will not have to worry about the format changing because the technology is not owned by any one company — in the long run, Jones thinks this will be an advantage for Apple.
“Can they win with this strategy? Yes. The chipset vendors are afraid of different revs of Windows Media player that aren’t backward compatible, so I think open standards win on portable devices and that’s what QuickTime is going to ride on,” said Jones.