March 7th 2003
By Mike Flaminio
Microsoft may be pushing its Windows Media Player (WMP) format hard against rivals RealPlayer and Apple QuickTime, but Redmond is betting on MPEG-4 when it comes to movie-playing cell phones.
MPEG-4 for movie playback will be the centerpiece of a new phone that BenQ plans to release in the second half of 2003. BenQ is working with Microsoft on its unreleased Media-to-Go OS, which will run on the phone.
"MPEG4 movies are very popular on the Web and we'd like to be able to play back to downloaded movies," said Rick Lei, general manager of sales at BenQ , to c|net Asia.
Lei makes the point that BenQ is working on the Media-to-Go OS with specific reference to its MPEG-4 playback capabilities.
The BenQ player-phone, which has not been named, will get a 10 or 20GB hard drive, similar to those found in the iPod.
MPEG-4, based on Apple's QuickTime file format, is well known for its ability to heavily compress video and deliver quality playback.
BenQ also remarkets OEM CDRW drives and Pioneer DVD-R drives.
Analysis: So, Microsoft has realized that it can't foist WMP on everyone after all. If nothing else, this move represents tacit recognition of the popularity and quality of the MPEG-4 format. Just as everyone wants MP3, not WMP music files, MPEG is, and should be the standard for playing video.
By the way, where's that Apple iPhone? We certainly don't want to see an emerging market for these PDA/cell phone/mobile movie units without Apple taking a big slice of the pie. Who else could do the software/hardware integration so well? We hope if this takes off that Apple isn't as late to the party as it was with CDRW.