Entertainment a major theme of 3GSM World Congress

With several mobile phone manufacturers recently launching "designer" models, it's little wonder that the organizers of the 3GSM World Congress in Cannes, France, have included a fashion show in this year's event.

The show, intended to demonstrate how wearable technology can be fun and fashionable as well as functional, promises to be a far cry from the suit-and-tie image that the event has had in previous years, and will feature products from about 30 companies. If the scenes on the catwalk at the Palais des Congrès in Cannes are more reminiscent of the film industry's annual bash at the same venue, the resemblance is perhaps intentional, as video and multimedia feature strongly in the products being launched or displayed at the show.

Chinese network equipment manufacturer ZTE, for instance, will be showing streaming media, video-on-demand and Java applet download applications for 3G (third generation) networks. The company hopes these demonstrations will convince operators to buy its equipment for their networks.

French equipment manufacturer Alcatel SA and Japanese partner Fujitsu will bring a little piece of Asia to the French coast: They will be offering live demonstrations of multimedia services on Japanese mobile operator NTT DoCoMo's Foma 3G network. A Foma base station linked directly to DoCoMo's network in Tokyo by a leased line will allow visitors to experience services such as four-way videoconferencing over the world's most developed 3G network, without having to fly half-way around the world to do so. Foma is not compatible with the 3G networks being built in Europe, but Alcatel says operators can still learn from the services being offered there.

ConVisual AG of Oberhausen, Germany, wants to turn mobile phone users into TV reporters. With a system it has developed, they can take a picture using their GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) camera-phone, send it by MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) to a TV station and see it automatically displayed on screen. The possibilities are intriguing -- and alarming. ConVisual notes that the system includes a comprehensive editing system, allowing photos to be evaluated before they are broadcast.

There'll be plenty of other MMS applications to marvel at in the MMS Interoperability Showcase. Last year's showcase looked like a filler for some left-over exhibition space in a tent down by the beach, but this year's it's come in from the cold. With sponsorship from Alcatel, Comverse Technology, Telefon Aktiebolaget LM Ericsson, LogicaCMG, Magic4, Microsoft, Nokia, Openwave Systems, Sony Ericsson Mobile Communications, Tecnomen Oy and Telenity, the showcase will cover inter-device interoperability, smart handsets, adapting content to different handsets and managing digital rights restrictions for MMS content.

Secure Digital Container will be demonstrating another form of digital rights management, its Digicont system, which is used by network operator O2 in its Music to Mobile service. The Java-based system enables the secure delivery of full-length music tracks to mobile devices, according to SDC.

With mobile video and mobile music already on the menu, all it takes to complete the digital entertainment panoply is mobile gaming, and there's plenty of that too.

Gametrac Europe will be showing its Gametrac console, which has previously been shown in Las Vegas. In addition to three games and a music player, Gametrac will also be showing a feature that will dismay potential players, but delight network operators: a way of delivering advertisements to the console by MMS.

In-Fusio SA has been a regular exhibitor at the event for years: Its stripped-down Java virtual machine for playing games has featured in a number of phones. It has struck a deal with Zurich-based Esmertec AG to incorporate its ExEn Gaming Extensions software in Esmertec's Jbed Java games platform. The extensions will enable handset manufacturers and network operators to deploy network-based real-time multiplayer games with new features such as free trials of pay-for downloads and a contact list system to encourage players to recommend games to friends.

Another company with designs on Java is its inventor, Sun Microsystems Inc. Having just announced a standardization and certification program with Nokia, Motorola, Sony Ericsson and Siemens to make deploying J2ME (Java 2 Mobile Edition) applications simpler, the company is preparing to announce other mobile Java plans on Monday.

The 3GSM World Congress runs from Monday to Thursday.

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Peter Sayer

IDG News Service

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