Phones

BlackBerry hits hardware roadblock

Hardware limitations are preventing the BlackBerry from offering more advanced multimedia features, according to two of the major multimedia application developers for BlackBerry handhelds.

QuickPlayer running on a BlackBerry 8700

Hardware limitations are preventing the BlackBerry from offering more advanced consumer-friendly multimedia features, according to two of the major multimedia application developers for BlackBerry handhelds -- QuickPlay Media and Sona Mobile.

QuickPlay's flagship product, QuickPlayer, is an audio streaming service that offers international news, information and entertainment to BlackBerry users. At its launch on 15 June 2006, the service will offer a mix of free and paid-for content from a number of major providers. Specific content partners are yet to be announced, however, QuickPlay currently boasts deals with ESPN Mobile Publishing, Fox, BiteTV, Accuweather.com, The Score, E! Network, Sound Track Channel, CHUM Interactive and CBC.

Presently, QuickPlayer only supports audio streaming, and is limited to use specifically with the BlackBerry 8700 model. Christina Biluk, marketing communications manager at QuickPlay Media told CNET.com.au that "hardware limitations" were the primary factor preventing the company from offering video streaming and support for other BlackBerry handhelds.

Biluk added that the Intel PCA901 processor featured on the 8700 was the only chip out of the current crop of BlackBerry devices powerful enough to support QuickPlayer at acceptable quality levels.

Sona Mobile has taken a markedly different approach. Its MediaPlayer software allows for both the streaming and local playback of video files on any BlackBerry device, but the company acknowledges that playback quality is significantly behind that of competing Windows Mobile and Palm handhelds.

Sona MediaPlayer chugging along at 12 fps

Shawn Kreloff, chairman and managing director of Sona told CNET.com.au that there's a "severe limitation from the product and processing standpoint."

"We've done the best you can possibly do given the constraints."

Sona's demonstration at the 2006 Wireless Enterprise Symposium (WES) being held this week in Orlando, Florida highlights the aforementioned constraints. Video playback is limited to a chugging 12 frames per second (fps), while capacity limitations (the 8700 offers a meagre 64MB of flash memory and no expansion slots) mean that users can only store around 10 minutes of video at a time.

While rumours of Research In Motion (RIM) launching a more powerful, multimedia-rich BlackBerry this week at WES flooded the Web in the lead up to the event, RIM told CNET.com.au that it in fact will not be launching a new handheld at the conference. RIM did, however, confirm that the company will launch such a device at some point in the future.

Asher Moses traveled to Florida as a guest of RIM.