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Bridging the gap between ‘smart’ content, 'dumb' smartphones

At the recent Mobile World Congress, the mobile TV software company PacketVideo announced two partnerships that will incorporate PV's video platform into new devices: the Fujitsu F9051i handset and PV and Nagravision's jointly developed DVB-T Telly accessory for iPhones, WiFi-enabled phones, portable media players and PCs.

PV is exploring ways to catch a share of the iPhone market, which, because of Apple's locked-down design, was slow in getting mobile TV.

"There aren't really any live video services” for the iPhone, said Joel Espelien, Packet Video VP of strategy. "There's downloaded or side-loaded content. People are watching a lot of video, but it's not live or streaming — the iPhone supports progressive downloading with the QuickTime player, but it doesn't stream.

"So we put our application on the iPhone to support full streaming video over WiFi and over 3G," he said. "We can bring it to carriers selling iPhones around the world and bring live TV services that have been around for a while” to iPhone viewers.

The TV-challenged iPhone is just one indicator of a growing problem Espelien sees in the smartphone market today: bridging the gap between operators' needs to add sophisticated multimedia services and the limited functionality of new smartphone platforms.

"Operators and consumers like these new smartphones — that's a huge dynamic in this industry," Espelien said. But, "because they seem powerful — and they are powerful in a technical sense — and they look really cool, and what they do, they do in a cool kind of way, people forget” that the new smartphones don't actually do very much.

"Each one is trying to do its own thing with varying degrees of openness," he said. "There's a handful of applications we've shipped on Blackberry. There are no operator services on the iPhone, Android and Palm Pre — for example, music, local search, video applications. Operators see them as life-or-death for their businesses."