Of course, I mean this figuratively – multimedia should be both seen and heard, preferably on high resolution displays with rich audio!
But the problem I’m highlighting (“I” being Martin Webb, Symbian’s Technology Manager for Multimedia) is that multimedia is a means to an end, rather than the end itself. Applications and users aren’t bothered about containers and codec profiles – they just want media to play, immediately will be fine thank you, but certainly not with any delays. Multimedia should “just work”.
Given Symbian’s transition into an open source project, I thought a good starting point for my multimedia blog would be to take stock of where we are. What are the key challenges facing the multimedia domain? I open with three:
- Playability Is King: Multimedia is a tool, and tools should work reliably. This isn’t yet the case – applications call “Play This”, and sometimes find the media isn’t playable. We need to ensure containers, codecs, stream sources etc work together reliably, failing only though a lack of device resources. This isn’t differentiating, it’s a hygiene factor – users assume that if a use-case is possible, it will always work, and so not working “negatively differentiates”. Sharing the burden through collaborative development is going to be an enormous help.
- Service Integration: More and more emphasis going forward will be placed on branded services – see the BBC’s iPlayer app on Nokia’s N97 for example. Such applications may want to manage video themselves, for example switching bit rates depending on network conditions. The platform needs to provide flexibility to these applications to allow them to differentiate.
- Picture Quality is Coming: devices are starting to appear that use tricks from TV land, such as dimming backlights, to improve picture quality. As displays get larger, this will increasingly become a differentiating issue. Ensuring the platform can work with these differentiating features will be key.
In short, the goal for the multimedia technology domain is to build a rock-solid platform onto which exciting new rich media services can be quickly deployed. Collaborative development is a big advantage here, as it frees up resources for focusing on new, differentiating multimedia use-cases.