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The quest for the killer mobile app: ringtones from hell?

And beyond - we look at Beatnik's contribution to civilisation

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The quest for the killer mobile phone app is decidedly on at this week's Symbian Developer Expo, and of the various candidates spotted by The Register, the first wave of apps involving Beatnik's technology look like the ones most likely to get you killed. Think stupid ringtones, think of them becoming polyphonic, longer samples of your favourite music, excerpts from the speeches of Margaret Thatcher (and why not, indeed?)... Do you dare go into a public place toting a device primed to explode into Paranoid?

But such atrocities will surely go down a bundle with the kids, and Beatnik's BAE (Beatnik Audio Engine) is going into the next generations of mobile phones, so there's money in it. And you never know, we might even be persuaded to get some kind of official Register ring together, so it ill becomes us to cast tones.

Future generations of Beatnik apps are however much more intriguing. BAE is a small footprint audio engine which supports the eXtensible Music Format (XMF), and essentially it works by delivering a content description over the air, rather than delivering the content itself. And it can support CD quality, so do you become intrigued? According to VP sales and marketing Jeremy Copp two and half minutes of Britney that took up four megabytes in MP3 could come down to 300k in XMF, so you now have permission to become even more intrigued.

But there's a snag. Yes, says Copp, it would be possible to reproduce Wagner's entire Ring (sorry) Cycle at CD quality, but it's not the case that you could just copy a CD. Instead, you'd have go back to the recording studio and have professional engineers produce it in the new format. Beatnik, however envisages the record industry starting to produce music in XMF format in parallel with its standard productions. This wouldn't be whole albums, but more likely would be sample clips they could use to market their wares on mobile phones. So here we get Britney again, this time as a multimedia clip designed to get you to buy her new record, and if you're a Britney fan you'll likely go for it.

The BAE can also bring quality sound to that other prospective killer app, the mobile phone game. This is another contribution to violence in public places, but it's a fact that decent audio has so far been missing from mobile phones, and that it'll also go down well with the kids.

More? Well, Copp outlines something he claims the network providers have identified as a "coherent" multimedia messaging application. This presumably means that although they've got plenty of suggestions for multimedia messaging applications, most of them are (as we've been suspecting for a while) incoherent. This one's simple enough - yes folks, it's Britney again, or at least it will include Britney. Imagine musical, multimedia trading cards that can be swapped, acquire value... It works, no?

Currently announced partners for Beatnik are Nokia and Danger, which will be using it in its Hiptop, a combo mobile phone, internet and player device aimed at the youth market. But there will assuredly be more. ®

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