MMW-52 -- Tao Group's Advanced Polyphonic Ringtone Engine

J@pan Inc Magazine Presents:
Commentary on the week's music technology news

Issue No. 52
Wednesday, December 10, 2003



++ FEATURE: Tao Group's Advanced Polyphonic Ringtone Engine

** Hewlett-Packard Announces New Music Store and Player
** Virgin to Launch Online Music Service
** Oki Releases New Mobile Sound Chip for Chinese Market

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++ FEATURE: Tao Group's Advanced Polyphonic Ringtone Engine

Some of our readers may be familiar with SSEYO, a music/audio
technology company that was founded in 1990 and which introduced the
"Koan" platform for Internet audio. In March 2002, SSEYO was acquired
by the Tao Group and proceeded to shift its focus toward mobile music
platforms and applications. The most recent offering from Tao is a
mobile audio framework for ringtones called "Advanced Polyphonic
Ringtone Engine" (APRE). In this feature, we'll spotlight Tao Group
and take a look at the APRE and their other audio technologies.

Announced on October 21, the APRE is touted by Tao Group as a
licensable engine comprising the "most comprehensive suite of
integrated audio technologies available on mobile phones." The product
is essentially a software-only audio playback system that has been
optimized for mobile devices and supports the major mobile audio
formats, including standard MIDI, SP-MIDI and SMAF. In addition,
various plug-in components can be integrated with the engine, such as
audio codecs (MP3, WAV, AU and Ogg Vorbis), effects, synthesizers and
mixers. The engine can be used on a fairly wide range of processors
and OSes, including Symbian, Nucleus and uITRON.

The APRE is actually part of a much larger audio/music software
framework called the intent Sound System (iSS). Tao's intent is itself
a multimedia platform for application developers and device
manufacturers, and iSS is the component that provides audio support
for that platform. The key features of iSS include an "open modular
synthesizer" that allows some MIDI content to be represented in
XML-based text, a technique known as "vector audio." In addition to
lower bandwidth requirements, the use of vector audio makes it
possible to include custom synthesized sounds.

As part of intent, iSS can be found on several mobile devices,
including the Kyocera PocketCosmo and the Psion NetPad. In addition,
the APRE has been licensed for use on the Windows Mobile-based
SmartPhone, which is being marketed as an "all-in-one" wireless
phone/PDA. SSEYO's Koan included some fairly advanced music generation
algorithms, and this technology has been reincarnated in the APRE for
SmartPhone in the form of "live tones," which are dynamically
generated and customizable.

With the release of the intent Sound System and the Ringtone Engine,
Tao Group has a chance to break into the competitive mobile audio
platform market. At present, this space is occupied by companies such
as Yamaha, Faith, Beatnik, Rohm and Oki, all of whom have been busy
courting device manufacturers with their various file formats,
software and hardware for mobile audio.

While Tao is a relative newcomer to this market, the company has a
definite advantage in the form of its subsidiary SSEYO, which boasts a
12-year track record of developing innovative audio and music
technologies. As the quality of mobile audio hardware continues to
improve, device manufacturers are increasingly likely to turn to
companies like Tao for music software that can take advantage of those
audio advances and make their mobile products more competitive.

-- Steve Myers

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** Hewlett-Packard Announces New Music Store and Player

In brief: Following on the heels of computer manufacturers Apple and
Dell, which recently began selling music online as well as their own
digital music players, Hewlett-Packard announced that it too will
start its own online music service and couple it with a portable music
player. Other manufacturers are also expected to follow.


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** Virgin to Launch Online Music Service

In brief: Glen Ward, chief executive of the Virgin Entertainment
Group, announced on December 4 that Virgin would be launching its own
online music store in early 2004. Ward said also that the service
would compete within the de facto standard of 99 cents per song.


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** Oki Releases New Mobile Sound Chip for Chinese Market

In brief: Oki Electric announced last week that, in collaboration with
Casio, it has developed a new 64-polyphonic PCM (Pulse Code
Modulation) based sound generator LSI for use in mobile phones in
China. Dubbed the ML2864, this chip is the third release in Oki's
"Swing n Ringer" sound chip series. The chip has an eight-octave range
and supports standard MIDI files as well as many of the popular
ringtone formats. In addition to China, Oki also plans to target
Europe, the US, South Korea and Japan, with particular emphasis on the
GSM and CDMA markets. Sample shipments will start this month, at the
rate of 950 yen per unit. Volume shipping is set to start in March


Subscribers: 2,150 as of December 10, 2003

Written by: Steve Myers (
Steve Myers is president and chief enthusiast of Theta Music
Technologies, which specializes in the development of music-related
software applications.

Edited by J@pan Inc editors: (


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