The Suitability of SVG for Deploying Wireless Applications

John Hayman
Research In Motion Limited
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Mississauga, ON
Canada L4W 5M4
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The wireless world is at a crossroads. Until recently, applications for wireless devices were text based and designed to deliver textual information. That is changing. Wireless devices are shipping with colour displays and more advanced graphics rendering libraries. Once applications are deployed that take advantage of these features, consumers will demand a rich media experience from all their wireless applications

Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) is designed to describe 2D vector graphics (and mixed vector/raster graphics). It allows for interactivity using the event model and animation concepts borrowed from Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language (SMIL). SVG has had some success on the World Wide Web. It is XML-based allowing it to integrate well with existing web technologies. Its endorsement by the W3C (as a recommendation) and Adobe (as a preferred data format) show that it has staying power.

New wireless devices with greater and greater feature sets are being developed and deployed. Writing compelling rich media applications for wireless devices is a daunting task. One must deal with constrained memory, limited processor power and minimal screen real estate. Often the teams that have the skill sets to address these technical problems lack the skill sets to deliver compelling rich media. Even with a content-focussed and technically focussed development team, the constraints of the devices can limit the effectiveness of the presentation.

This paper assesses the suitability of SVG for developing and deploying wireless applications. It highlights the challenges in wireless development and comments on the strengths of SVG in this space. It also addresses the limitations of SVG and the difficulty in delivering SVG to a constrained device.

The paper uses the Plazmic Media Engine(tm) solution as the backdrop for discussion. Plazmic Media Engine is a media player that currently runs on the NTT DoCoMo network in Japan. It is deployed right now and delivers rich mobile media applications to thousands of subscribers. At the heart of the media player is the SVG format. The project brings a unique perspective because SVG was chosen (and later embraced) as the application language after the technology had been developed.

Finally, the paper looks toward the future in the wireless space. It discusses the advances in technology that will make rich media common on wireless devices and SVG's role in that development.