"The MPV format will make it easy for consumers to transfer photos and video captured on a digital camera to a compatible DVD player or a computer using a memory card or recordable CD or DVD, and then play back the content exactly as captured without any additional steps," says Tara Bunch, general manager of digital imaging solutions at Hewlett-Packard Company.
At present, the actual look and feel of this format remains largely undetermined. Pieter van Zee, editor of the MPV specification, states, "Prior to release, it is available to any organization that joins into the open process sponsored by OSTA and I3A. The only requirement is the appropriate level of membership in one of the sponsoring organizations." Both OSTA and I3A hope to have a 1.0 specification ready in the first half of 2002 with the first product implementations available by early next year.
OSTA and I3A began their relationship in the hopes that I3A members would participate in the development and promotion of OSTA's MPV initiative. Some of these companies include Alera Technologies, Hewlett-Packard Company, LightSurf Technologies, Inc., LSI Logic Corporation, NETIMAGE, Planetweb, Inc., Oak Technology, Inc., Roxio, Inc., and Software Architects Inc. OSTA's MultiAudio and I3A's DIG35 metadata specifications serve as the basis upon which the MPV initiative will expand. MultiAudio enhances the playback of MP3 libraries while DIG35 deals with metadata-enhanced digital imaging. While MPV traces its lineage to these earlier ventures, it is not a simple specification like MultiAudio, but rather a personal content management specification "not tied to formats, such as JPEG or optical media as delivery media," according to Felix Nemirovsky, general manager of Oak Technologies optical media software group and the chair of OSTA's MultiRead subcommittee. At the same time, "It's more than just metadata," Nemirovsky says. "It's navigational data about how to use it." Users of MPV content will be able to encode to CD or DVD, or just as easily into an HTML stream and deliver it anywhere that there is data to be managed with both organizational and navigational information.
Like MultiAudio, the MPV spec has been designed explicitly to address consumer applications, and by extension, to expand the consumer installed base for digital video and imaging devices. "The focus of the companies interested in MPV thus far, both publicly and privately," van Zee says, "is on mainstream consumer digital imaging." But its use may expand well beyond the consumer sphere, according to Mark Ely, general manager of Sonic Solutions' consumer business group. "I could see MPV being used in any number of professional environments," Ely says, citing professional photographers and photo labs distributing contact sheets on DVDs in MPV format as one logical implementation. "Any time we design something with consumers in mind, professionals always end up finding uses for it," Ely says.
But clearly OSTA and I3A are targeting the consumer space initially. Nemirovsky says MPV's consumer focus should represent a key step in the "PC to CE [consumer electronics] migration": compile your content on your PC and enjoy it on your TV. "In the future," Nemirovsky says, "the main purpose of DVD players will not be to play movies." Instead DVD will act as the delivery method for all sorts of digital media created by users directly from devices, such as digital camcorders and cameras, without the use of a PC.
To take advantage of the new format, users will need to purchase an "MPV-aware" device, such as a DVD-ROM or DVD-Video player outfitted for MPV compatibility. OSTA will offer, but not require, a logo certification program for devices and software applications that support the MPV format, much as it provided for "MultiRead" CD-ROM drives to signify that they incorporated the necessary optics to read then-newcomer CD-RW. While MPV will not work on everything, van Zee says, "a disc or memory card with photo-video content and MPV on it can also play in non-MPV-aware devices"—but it won't deliver the MPV content in MPV format. "Conversely," he adds, "we expect all or most MPV-aware devices also to support photo-video content not presented in the MPV format. In general, without MPV, we expect the user will simply have a less responsive, less easy-to-use experience." Users equipped with Windows XP and/or Internet Explorer 5.5 can expect to benefit from the new standard almost immediately; MPV's design should allow users to play back their photo-video collections within the browser window in a slideshow format.
From the user's perspective, ascertaining the MPV-readiness of a DVD-Video player, DVD-ROM drive, or digital camera or camcorder should be simple, according to van Zee: check for the MPV logo on the device. "OSTA will also offer a separate implementation compliance test plan and materials at a modest fee," van Zee continues. While the logo guarantees recognition, and perhaps visibility, if MPV takes off, it's not essential to providing MPV compatibility. "MPV can be used and implemented by any organization or device, regardless of whether they receive logo certification."
Consumer-level DVD authoring and recording applications would be one group of non-hardware products likely to pursue MPV compliance. According to Ely, implementing MPV in next-generation upgrades of Sonic's DVDit! and MyDVD entry-level DVD authoring tools "looks relatively easy." Sonic will be working closely with other OSTA members, he says, to support the format as it develops in the coming months.
Until the first official MPV specification arrives and subsequent MPV-aware products hit the market, the full effect of MPV on digital media and CD/DVD writer sales won't be known. But given the increasing popularity of digital cameras, and the convergence of digital photography and DVD recording markets on home and hobbyist applications, early champions of MPV see it as a natural extension of DVD's capabilities, and expect the impact to be fairly significant. Perry Solomon, president and CEO of Alera Technologies and chair of OSTA's market development committee, says, "I would suggest that through a combination of falling prices and ease of use, sales will ramp substantially."