MMW-28 -- New Phones For Europe to Play MIDI Files

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

Issue No. 28
Wednesday, July 31, 2002



++ FEATURE: New Phones For Europe to Play MIDI Files

- Proposed Bill Would Allow Sabotage of File Sharing Systems
- Infineon Announces Development of Wearable MP3 Player

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++ FEATURE: New Phones For Europe to Play MIDI Files

A little over a month ago, we presented a survey of the top i-mode
ringtone download sites in Japan and commented on some of the trends
that have taken shape here. It's been a while, however, since we last
looked at the burgeoning overseas ringtone market, which is where many
of the larger Japanese providers are now turning their attention. This
week, we'll examine some of the ringtone developments taking place in
the European market, while next week's feature will focus on Asia and
the US.

For starters, it appears that the first MIDI-only phones will be
launched not in Japan but in Europe. Two manufacturers, Toshiba and
Panasonic, are expected to announce the release of handsets which can
play standard MIDI files. Toshiba's T21i will follow NEC's N21i as
only the second i-mode handset for Europe. Priced at a (relatively)
inexpensive 99 euros, its release date is currently set to coincide
with the Belgium i-mode launch in early September. Meanwhile,
Panasonic's MIDI-capable phone is expected to launch in Spain,
although the release date remains uncertain.

With the release of the T21i, Toshiba will be breaking ranks with
DoCoMo and the other i-mode handset manufacturers in refusing to
support DoCoMo's MFi format. Equipped with a special chip made by
Rohm, Toshiba's handset will play only MIDI files. The catch is that
the MIDI files must be under 10KB in size, which will require
providers to either shorten or thin out many of their existing files.
Panasonic's limit on MIDI file size is said to be an even
stricter 4KB.

Unfortunately, ringtone site developers who had built their European
i-mode sites with the expectation that they would only have to deal
with MFi files will find themselves having to make adjustments to
allow for the download of two types of files, depending on the user's
handset. Likewise, the content providers themselves will have to
scramble if they are to replicate their current European MFi catalogs
with MIDI files that fall within the 10KB size restriction -- and
that's assuming that the MIDI files don't require further alteration
in order to play correctly. If past experience is any indication, the
odds are strong that these phones aren't going play just any normal
MIDI file, but will likely require the file to conform to a wide array
of restrictions.

Finally, one has to wonder why DoCoMo would even allow Toshiba to
market an i-mode phone that doesn't support the MFi format. After all,
DoCoMo has been fairly hard-nosed about this particular issue in the
past. One possible explanation could be that the carrier is anxious to
provide an alternative handset to that of NEC, which has so far
enjoyed monopoly status over the European i-mode handset market.
Although this is just speculation, it's entirely possible that DoCoMo
needed to compromise on the ringtone format issue in order to hasten
the arrival of a second i-mode model for Europe.

Whatever the case, it's going to be interesting to see how the T21i
fares in the market. Toshiba's model adds a new twist to the
competition between Yamaha Faith, and Rohm, which have each been
lobbying overseas carriers and manufacturers to adopt their respective
sound formats and/or chips. If the T21i is a success, all of these
companies will likely speed up development of their own MIDI-based
mobile solutions.

-- Steve Myers

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** Proposed Bill Would Allow Sabotage of File Sharing Systems

In brief: Under a bill recently proposed to the U.S. Congress by Rep.
Howard Berman of California, copyright holders would be legally
allowed to hack into the networks operated by file-sharing services in
order to prevent users from downloading free music. While the bill
doesn't say specifically what copyright owners are allowed to do to
stop the file sharing, it does place some limitations on their actions
and requires them to notify users and the Justice Dept. whenever they
take action.

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** Infineon Announces Development of Wearable MP3 Player

In brief: The Japanese subsidiary of Infineon Technologies held a
preview session last week where they displayed a wearable, washable
MP3 player that was woven into a jacket. Users operate the player via
a sensor also put on the clothes. Designed to showcase Infineon's
"wearable electronics technology," the MP3 player is still being
refined in the research lab and is not expected to be commercialized
for another three to four years.

The latest issue of J@pan Inc magazine is now available online!
Click here for the lowdown:

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

- Two of a Kind - Man & Ape
Humans and apes have a lot in common, including much of their genome,
but why are Japanese scientists racing to unravel the simian gene?
Sara Harris explains.

- Economic Bondage
Western credit rating agencies say Japan's government is addicted to
debt, but the bureaucrats are fighting back, claiming the ratings are
way out of line. The J@pan Inc editors search for economic truths
amid the mudslinging.

- The Recycling Champs
As recycling laws restrict Japanese tendencies to dump unwanted
goods, more small enterprises are finding ways to profit and prove
that muck = brass.

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Written by: Steve Myers (
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: (


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