Video compression software comes of age

Multimedia software vendors aiming to woo the handheld market with high-quality video and audio compression applications appear to be coming of age.

For instance, Mystic, Conn.-based Anteon Corp. has released PockIt and UnPockIt video compression software for handhelds, but primarily for Compaq’s iPAQ. Figuratively speaking, the gauntlet has been thrown down in the handheld PC wars, as PockIt is regarded by some as the most powerful production tool available, allowing users to view video wherever and whenever they desire.

“Compaq, Hewlett-Packard and other major vendors have all admitted the boom for PDAs is to be found in the consumer market,” said Warren Chaisatien, a research director with IDC Canada in Toronto. “Having said that, targeting the corporate market is the right way to go as multimedia applications used in the home are making their way into the workplace. For instance, audio/visual, multimedia advertisements at corporate presentations are happening all the time now.”

According to Pocketmultimedia – Anteon’s business unit for handheld-related software – consumers and business persons can access a full screen image of any video, running at 30 frames per second with full stereo sound.

“The difference from our competitors lies with our full-screen view,” explained Mark Clifton, director of Pocketmultimedia. “If you’re a commuter on a train, you now have the ability to download and view your favourite show…we’re dealing in the professional market right now, we’re waiting for the infrastructure and the price of network services to come down before we go full-steam into the consumer market.”

PockIt is used to prepare (transcode) video files (MPEG, AVI) for playback on the iPAQ or any similar Pocket PC. Any MPEG or AVI file produced by a video capture or TV tuner card can be transcoded. The quality and resolution of the resulting file can be selected at the time of transcoding, providing a means to select the amount of space, the frame-rate and the perceived quality of the video. Conversely, UnPockIt is a decoder application specifically designed for the Compaq iPAQ. This application is designed to play back files produced by PockIt.

The consumer-related uses of this technology is obvious, but it’s unlikely that professional users will be using PockIt to catch up on missed episodes of Survivor.

“There are numerous uses for business persons, everything from viewing a training video to a missed presentation,” stated Scott Futryk, an independent consultant for an upstart video streaming enterprise (What’s the name of the enterprise?) in Cupertino, Calif. “People’s time is linear, you only have so many hours in a day, so if I can take a video, encode it onto a 2GB hard drive and slip it into my PDA and drop it into my jacket pocket, I now have complete control over my schedule.”

Futryk said he is thoroughly impressed with Pocketmultimedia’s software, not only due to its one-to-one video compression capability, but also because it doesn’t impose on the PDA screen’s real estate.

“It’s the first product that uses the PDA’s buttons for playback features on a video,” he said. “It’s an outstanding product; the ability to use video streaming as a communications tool for large enterprises looms large.”

Both PockIt and UnPockIt can be purchased through Web-based software distributors and Prices for both were unavailable at press time.

Sales of wireless Internet access devices will record double- and triple-digit growth through 2004, stated a recent study by the San Jose, Calif.-based IT consulting firm Cahners In-Stat. The study also predicted 1 billion Internet-ready wireless phones – the most popular mobile access devices with consumers – will be sold annually by 2004. It added by the end of 2001, all wireless phones will be Internet-enabled and equipped with mini-browsers.

It is also expected new technologies such as the forthcoming Bluetooth project – which will allow handhelds to link wirelessly to mobile phones – and Research In Motion’s BlackBerry two-way pager – a PDA-like device – will have a dramatic impact on both the consumer and business markets.

Pocketmultimedia in Fairfax, Va., can be reached at (860) 599-3910 or via the Internet at