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Nokia launches multimedia application developer kit

Forum Nokia this week is shipping Mobile Internet Toolkit Version 3.1, enabling development of MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) applications for sending messages between handsets that contain voice, video, graphics, and photos.

The toolkit from the Texas-based company, which is the application development arm of Nokia Mobile Phones, provides functionality similar to SMS messages.

MMS is the telecommunications industry's follow-on to its wildly successful SMS service that generates more than one billion messages a month. SMS in the US is not as prevalent but measures in the tens of millions of monthly messages and is growing rapidly.

While SMS messages are limited to 160 characters per message, MMS will open up the messaging capabilities in the extreme, allowing users to attach cameras to mobile phones and send photos as well audio clips.

Carriers also hope to offer machine-to-person services that would include video clips and full audio of breaking headlines from a news service, or graphics from a brokerage house.

Air2Web, a San Francisco company that supplies enterprise-level companies such as Delta Airlines, United Parcel Service, Holiday Inn and others with its Mobile Internet Platform, also announced this week its completion of MMS trials between Nokia test centres in Dallas and Hong Kong and Air2Web labs in Atlanta.

Air2Web also announced that MMS will be integrated into services offered by the Weather Channel, which will display graphics of weather forecasts as well as photos of severe weather conditions on mobile phones as soon as the 3G rollout from the carriers is complete.

MMS requires high-bandwidth phones using either GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) or CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) 2000. Full video and audio are probably a few years away.

Nevertheless, Nokia is offering an MMS-enabled cell phone, model 7650, which includes a camera, as does Sony Ericcson in its T68i.

However, the jury is still out as to whether consumers will opt in, said Ferris. E-mail messages already allow users to send photos as attachments. However, the real-time quality of a photo sent via MMS message may attract users that are not price sensitive, added Ferris.

Despite support from many industry groups such as the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA), the 3G Partnership Program (3GPP), and the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA), there may be problems later, according to Mike Wehrs, director in the mobile device division at Microsoft.

"We've made proposals to OMA to try and ensure we don't end up going down an incompatible path with e-mail systems," said Wehrs.

Wehrs sees the risk that MMS proponents are advocating to isolate MMS as a mobile-only application, and that will be confusing to users in how and when to use it.

"A user will wonder if they have to send the same message via e-mail, SMS, and MMS. The overall path should be one of messaging, not a separate and distinct [mobile wireless] path," said Wehrs.

The Nokia MMS toolkit is available as a free download at www.Forum.Nokia.com/tools.

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