MMW-20 -- Music Apps For the Ezplus Platform

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J@pan Inc Magazine Presents:
M U S I C M E D I A W A T C H
Commentary on the week's music technology news
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Issue No. 20
Tuesday, June 5, 2002
Tokyo

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CONTENTS

++ FEATURE: Music Apps For the Ezplus Platform

++ NOTEWORTHY NEWS:
- Review of Handheld Music Apps on CNET
- NY Times Looks at Two Satellite Radio Services

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++ FEATURE: Music Apps For Ezplus Platform

For developers of both game and music software, wireless devices have
become the hot target platform, and the past year has seen a
particularly large increase in the number of music software
applications available for PDAs and phones. As the current leader in
this arena, Japan's wireless audience provides developers with the
opportunity to reach millions of potential users. And with ringtones
comprising the biggest-selling wireless application, it is not
surprising that more and more software makers are turning their
attention to developing music applications for DoCoMo, J-Sky and KDDI
Java-capable mobile phones.

Given the importance of these platforms to music software developers,
it is worthwhile to examine their relative merits as well as their
various shortcomings. A few weeks ago, I wrote about the challenges
(and potential rewards) associated with creating music-related
applications for DoCoMo's 503i Java platform, with particular
emphasis on the difficulty of synchronizing any kind of screen
animation to music. In this feature, I'll compare the capabilities of
KDDI's ezplus Java application platform with regard to developing the
same kind of music applications.

The first and most obvious advantage that ezplus offers developers is
the 50KB jar file size limit, which is five times larger than what is
allowed on DoCoMo's 503i DoJa platform. Whereas the overly
restrictive 10KB limit on DoCoMo 503i phones makes it extremely
difficult to put much functionality into a client program, 50KB makes
possible a much wider variety of music creation and sound player
applications, not to mention music-related games such as "Dance Dance
Revolution."

In the DoCoMo java feature a few weeks back, I pointed out that there
is great variation among the various i-mode models in terms of screen
size, processing speed and timing control. While this is still an
issue with the ezplus models (there are currently seven models by six
different makers that support network-enabled Java applications), the
problem is not quite as severe as it is with i-mode handsets. Even
with ezplus, there is still a fair amount of tweaking required to
synch audio with graphics. However, the platform does manage to
provide finer control over timing. This means, for example, that when
you program something to happen after one second, you can be
reasonably certain that it will indeed happen after one second.

On the downside, the ezplus network is noticeably slower when making
HTTP server connections from a Java application. Furthermore, if you
try via an appli to download a CMX song file that is more than 9KB in
size, the application will freeze. I've experienced a similar problem
with DoCoMo, but only on the N503i model, which chokes on anything
greater than 6KB coming from the server. Also, like DoCoMo, the
ezplus Java API is void of any kind of audio playback control beyond
'play' and 'stop,' which further complicates the process of synching
sound and graphics.

In summary, I'd say that the KDDI ezplus platform is definitely
easier to develop for if you are making a music application that
requires minimal communication with the server. While this certainly
limits the types of services you can offer, the platform is still a
strong one for creating flashy musical games and simple ringtone
composing/mixing applications. Developers of i-appli who are used to
squeezing every last byte out of their code in order to save space
should appreciate the 500 percent increase in space, but are likely
to become annoyed with the slow network speed.

In an upcoming issue, I'll round out the comparison of the major
wireless Java platforms with a look at J-Phone Java and its close
connection to Yamaha's SMAF mobile sound format.

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++ NOTEWORTHY NEWS

** Review of Handheld Music Apps on CNET

Check out this review of some of the latest music applications for
mobile devices such as the Sony CLIE and the Casio Cassiopeia. CNET's
roundup includes not only digital audio players but also some of the
latest mobile applications for creating music, including NotePad and
BeatPad from MiniMusic. The reviewer at CNET also comments on the
absence of any type of music software for the Palm.

Source:
http://computers.cnet.com/hardware/0-1087-8-5939469-2.html?tag=st.co.
1087-8-5939469-1.txt.1087-8-5939469-2

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** NY Times Looks at Two Satellite Radio Services

This recent report by Barnaby Feder in the NY Times examines two new
satellite radio services. Feder looks at the pros and cons of
Washington-based XM and its New York competitor Sirius. Both
companies are offering 100+ channels at a monthly rate of $10 and
$13, respectively. The main selling point for satellite radio is the
variety of content, and several automobile manufacturers are
beginning to include the systems pre-installed.

Source:
http://www.nytimes.com/2002/06/02/business/yourmoney/02SATE.html

===============================NOTE==================================
The latest issue of J@pan Inc magazine is now available online!
Click here for the lowdown:
http://www.japaninc.com/contents.php?issueID=37

Subscribers can access our hot-off-the-press features, including:

- Doctor in the House
As ever greater numbers of non-Japanese investors move in to take
over more and more distressed assets, we take a look at exactly who's
got money to spend and why they're directing their efforts eastward.
Are they in for a quick buck or looking to heal an ailing economy?

- Walls Come Tumbling Down in Japanese Banking
Kansai Sawayaka Bank was the first acquisition target for
all-American takeover guru Wilbur Ross when its predecessor foundered
in the aftermath of Japan's 1999 financial 'Big Bang.' KSB's fate has
been seen as anything from foreign interference to an intriguing
experiment. Alex Stewart surveys the lie of the land.

- Ross to the Rescue
The deal-making prowess of Wilbur Ross is known far and wide, but how
has he slashed his way through the notorious Japanese red-tape
jungles? And more importantly, why?

- Open Source Free for All
Why are Japan's mainframe makers, brokerages and other big guns so
interested in open source solutions these days? Sam Joseph takes us
into a geeky world that is getting more attention from moneyed
interests.

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SUBSCRIBERS: 815 as of June 5, 2002

STAFF Written by Steve Myers: steve.myers@l8tech.com
Steve Myers heads the Theta Group at Layer-8 Technologies,
which specializes in the development of music-related
software applications.

Edited by J@pan Inc editors: (editors@japaninc.com)

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