Interview with Jim Brailean, CEO of PacketVideo

There's been a lot of attention given lately to the smart phone market, between Apple's iPhone and Google's Android project, so we thought it would be interesting to talk to one of the companies in the space, San Diego-based PacketVideo. PacketVideo ( develops mobile software for multimedia, and has significant footprint in the handset market, so we thought it would be great to learn more about the dynamics of the handset software industry. We spoke with PV's CEO and co-founder, Jim Brailean, to hear more about the company and its products. Jim spoke with socalTECH's Ben Kuo.

What your products are used for?

Jim Brailean: We enable multimedia on mobile. That's the main part of our business today. We are a technology enabling solutions provider. Here in North America, we're best known for the technology behind the V CAST music on demand and video demand for Verizon, but we work with many carriers, including NTT DoCoMo, Orange, and T-Mobile--those are some of the biggest ones. We work with carriers to help them bring their vision of service onto a mobile device.

We get very involved with how people are going to be navigating the solution, as well as interacting with their phone, and we're responsible for delivering all of the software to enable that service. The big value proposition we have to carriers is we're a single source supplier, providing all of the multimedia technology underneath the services they want to launch. We're very good at embedded software, and are responsible for getting it across all of the cell phone platforms, many OSes, different chipsets. There's a lot to the solution that we provide, so that users have a consistent feel no matter what handset or mobile device they're on.

Who's the typical customers for your product--it sounds like it's the carriers?

Jim Brailean: It's mostly with carriers, as well as with handset OEMs. We do quite a bit directly with handset OEMs, for global phones--phones that not only a particular single carrier would buy, but which would be shipped across the globe. For example, we provide core basic multimedia capabilities on a lot of the Nokia phones, and Sony Ericcson phones, and I mentioned earlier some of the Japanese handset manufacturers. We've got a very close relationship with both OEMs as well as wireless carriers. It's a very unique situation, in that we work with all different handsets, and work with carriers to support their services on the handsets that vendor would support and sell.

Why would someone use your software, rather than develop it themselves?

Jim Brailean: A lot of it is time to market. We've been in the business now for ten years. We started in 1998, and we were the first to do mobile multimedia. We've got a very complete solution set, as well as a very complete technology base that you can draw upon. We've shipped on over 200 million handsets. That's a lot of confidence that PV can deliver. It's a very high quality solution, with great performance, and when you look at all the different handsets we support it allows you to monetize across many different markets. Overall, that drives down the price to our customers, and gives you much broader scale than a single handset OEM.

How is your software licensed?

Jim Brailean: It's per unit, it's a royalty based business based on per-unit shipped. So, it's a nice scaling business with regards to every handset that ships. More and more handsets are enabled for multimedia and for these services. When we started in 1998, people were just starting to get color displays, and it was sort of a stretch to be thinking about images and video on handsets. But, we knew it was going to come, but didn't realize it would be coming along so quickly. We've got over 250 design wins with different p hones now, which ship with multimedia capabilities with PV.

We often hear it's tough to build a business on software components--why have you been successful?

Jim Brailean: I think we've taken the attitude that this is really the software business, and that when you're in the wireless software business, you need to be a complete solutions provider. If you're doing a component, someone like Nokia doesn't want to try to source from ten different suppliers. They want to source from a single supplier. If you look at PV, our solution, what we call our CORE platform, enables something as simple as a camera phone application, with all of the image viewing and being able to see thumbnails and carousel through them--all the way up to a sophisticated, video conference using your cell phone. That single platform is very flexible. Someone can pull out just the image phone capabilities if they want, to use that part of the solution to target lower end handsets. We also provide the capability to plug in a music player, or video player, and now you have a solution for the mid section of the market. Finally, you can add video conferencing, and you have a full, 3G, high end phone.

We're a single source supplier across all market segments, hardware and software, and different hardware and operating systems. That's very attractive for handset owners. For carriers, it's equally as attractive, because from the carrier world, you're going to have someone like a Motorola or a Nokia, Samsung, or LG interpret the stack differently. There's a different feel and interaction of user experience across different handsets. Carriers want their service to be consistent across the devices, and having a supplier that can work with all these handset OEMs and can guarantee performance across devices is something that is very attractive.

Finally, what's your take on Google Android--is it good or bad for you--and what does it mean to the market?

Jim Brailean: It's good. First off, Linux is a very attractive platform in the cell phone market. One--it drives innovation, and two--it has an attractive licensing model. For us, we are providing a multimedia framework for Android. We see it really bring a much needed solution to the Linux marketplace. It's taking a lot of the hard work out of Linux. It has improved the time to market and maturity of Linux for mobile devices. Since that announcement, we're seeing lots of interest in using it on phones, and seeing how carriers can utilize it for innovative services, as well as seen other types of service providers interesting in making sure they can understand how they can support the Android solution on their different devices. From our perspective, it opens up a whole new set of customers and a wealth of services in devices we can support.


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