Editorial: Apple’s mobile communications plans ring true
By Peter Cohen,
Some folks may lament Apple’s absence from the cell phone market — I’ve occasionally wished for an Apple-branded cell phone myself. But that’s not to say Apple isn’t making a play to work behind the scenes. Apple’s Senior Director of Product Marketing for QuickTime and Graphics, Frank Casanova,
laid out Apple’s strategy
during last week’s CTIA conference in San Francisco, Calif. Casanova’s presentation convincingly spelled out Apple’s ability to offer end-to-end solutions for mobile content publishers and communications companies.
More service providers are rolling out high speed data networks and more customers are buying multimedia-capable phones, but phones capable of displaying multimedia content have only recently reached critical mass in the United States and elsewhere, according to Casanova. He noted that Apple had to fly him to Japan in order to demonstrate the technology nine months ago, because that’s one of the few places where it worked. Multimedia content delivery for mobile handsets has become big business and is growing bigger as consumers demand more content for their phones. Apple hopes to carve out a healthy chunk of that market with their own products.
Real Networks and Microsoft both expend a lot of resources making portable versions of their media player software. Casanova explained that Apple doesn’t, mainly because it doesn’t need to. QuickTime’s file format is the basis of MPEG-4, the video and audio standard upon which the 3GPP and 3GPP2 cell phone standards are based. QuickTime content exported to 3GPP and 3GPP2 just works. That makes it trivially easy for someone with a Mac or a PC and a DV camcorder to make a small video of the kids trick-or-treating in their Halloween costumes and send it to Grandpa and Grandma’s cell phones.
Apple products can help professional content publishers in much the same way. Edit your content with Final Cut Pro HD, for example, then use an Xserve running QuickTime Streaming Server — included as part of Mac OS X Server — to deliver the content to mobile subscribers. This isn’t a hypothetical example: I just described exactly how Fox Sports serves up its content to subscribers of Sprint’s PCS Vision Multimedia Services.
Apple has already forged partnerships with major players in the cell phone space — companies like NTT DoCoMo, KDDI, Sprint and Verizon Wireless. What’s more, Apple counts 25 operators worldwide as actively participating in QuickTime content delivery trials, with 25 or 30 more on the way, all giving Apple’s content creation and playback systems a try.
It’s an important strategic play for Apple. With Windows dominating the business and general computing spaces, Apple has shifted its development efforts to more potentially profitable vertical markets where it can lead the way. Consumer music is a good example where Apple is the dominant player, with the iPod and iTunes Music Store. Apple’s also a strong performer in professional-level digital video, cinema and pro music, and it’s winning respect in the information technology space too. Casanova’s presentation at CTIA demonstrates Apple’s desire to forge a leadership role in this important, and potentially huge, new market by leveraging an arsenal of proven technology that continues to improve.
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