December 18, 2002, 9:05 AM — NTT DoCoMo Inc. is switching from a Microsoft Corp. video format to an open industry standard for its video-on-demand service offered over its third-generation (3G) cellular network.
The company is dropping the use of ASF (Advanced Streaming Format) on its I-motion service in favor of MP4, a wrapper format for MPEG4 video and audio and text, because of the cost of licensing fees levied for use of the system by Microsoft, according to an NTT DoCoMo spokeswoman.
I-motion, first launched in November 2001, is a video-on-demand service available via the company's 3G network. Content ranging from news bulletins and music videos to animation and video of cover-girls in bikinis is available via I-motion, which is offered over the 3G packet network. In addition to packet charges, some content has additional charges ranging from 100 yen per month for news to 300 yen per month for the bikini-clad girls.
To accommodate the switch, the company will begin offering I-motion content in MP4 in addition to ASF from this month, it said.
With the change to MP4, NTT DoCoMo is also increasing the maximum size of video clips that can be downloaded from the service from 100K bytes to 300K bytes. For users this means better quality and longer video clips, from a current maximum of 15 seconds to 40 seconds, said NTT DoCoMo. The MP4 files also support the inclusion of text, which can be scrolled across the cell phone screen at the same time as the video is being played.
At the same time, the company is introducing a new service called I-motion Mail that allows users to take short video clips and send them to other subscribers and personal computers via the e-mail function on their telephones. Apple Computer Inc.'s new version of Quicktime supports the MP4 file format and allows PC users to see the files.
The first handsets that support the MP4 format streams and files will become available shortly. The company has readied terminals from Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd., which is better known as Panasonic, NEC Corp. and Fujitsu Ltd. and will be launching them between now and the end of January.
The switch comes as Microsoft is trying to gain a foothold in the cellular industry through promotion of its Pocket PC Phone Edition and Windows-Powered Smartphone software. The former is intended for devices that are more like traditional PDAs and have additional telephony functions while the latter is aimed at devices that are phones first and offers a more limited set of Internet and productivity tools.
Several cellular handset makers have already put on sale or shown models based on these two operating systems however none are available in the Japanese market, which does not use the GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) standard on which the majority are based.