This week, I was lucky enough to spend some time in the company of Max Taylor (International Marketing Director, Mobile), and Mark Price (Public Relations Manager, EMEA), from Dolby Mobile. Many of you may remember that we covered Dolby’s move in to Mobile as part of Will’s CTIA coverage – out of that has spun a great opportunity to get some more info on a solution that is going to create a paradigm shift in the way audio is consumed on Mobile devices – I kid you not! Click the link to read the full interview…
The following Q&A is tagged up with IntoMobile’s (Ben’s) questions prefixed by [INTM], followed by Dolby’s (Max and Mark’s) replies prefixed by [DLBY].
[INTM]: So can you tell me a little about the Dolby’s recent past, with respect to Mobile?
[DLBY]: Sure. We are relatively new in to Mobile, and November 2007 was our first real customer handset win, with Sharp Japan, and NTT DoCoMo. Dolby Mobile was deployed on the Sharp 905i, followed by the 905iTV in January 2008. We also have another product coming imminently!
Additionally, in November 2007 we acquired Coding Technologies – the owners of the patents to both the aacPlus audio codec (Most of you will have this on your new Mobile devices – Ben), and also MPEG-Surround, which is currently in the process of being ratified.
In February 2008, we attended the Mobile World Congress (a.k.a. 3GSM! – Ben), with a number of outcomes – apart from showing off our technology on Mobiles and PMPs (Portable Media Players – Ben), we also announced partnerships with RMI and Symbian.
[INTM]: That’s great, thanks. Can you tell us a little more about your product, “Dolby Mobile”, please?
[DLBY]: Of course – Dolby Mobile sits at the chipset level, below the applications running on a device, and can act on all audio content to enhance the experience for the end-user. Dolby Mobile has a number of features:
- Mobile Surround – this is the “Up-mix” of flat stereo in to a virtual surround, giving a kind of “out of head” experience. Interestingly, we have found that it reduces fatigue that can sometimes occur through listening to music and other audio content, because the up-mix is done in a very natural way – think about how you hear sound(s) normally – they can be placed anywhere around you, and Mobile Surround intelligently emulates this.
- Sound Space Expander – this is for when a Mobile device is being used in a docking station. The docking stations typically have two speakers in close physical proximity to each other, and so we are able to enhance the sounds so that a more spatial effect is given
- Bass/EQ – these are the more common settings that you might expect find on a Mobile device, except they are delivered using Dolby’s expertise in audio – in which we have a considerable heritage!
[INTM]: I should say! The Dolby “stamp” (techical term for logo – Ben) I would suggest, has got to be one of the most well-recognised in home AV, and the Dolby name is synonomous with class-leading audio quality! So tell me a little more about the Sharp/DoCoMo product – how is that working?
[DLBY]: We are really pleased with the way that deployment has turned out. Our engineers work closely with DoCoMo content team to recommend to them the best ways to “tune” the sound for the device, based on metadata that is added to the content. For example, on the Sharp 905iTV, the TV content contains (meta)data that allows the handset to know what profile to implement for the end-user to give optimal audio experience.
[INTM]: It sounds like that should give an awesome listening experience! Do you have something I can hear, like a demo?
(INTM checks out the N95-8GB device with a special “bonded” application, that gives the Dolby Mobile experience – and comes away very very impressed!)
[INTM]: That really is quite amazing – I was particularly impressed with both the enhancement to the movie clips, and also the music – it really does make the music come alive, but in a very natural way. I can also see what you mean about less “fatigue” using this enhancement, because the sound quality is much more “comfortable”, it that’s the correct description – it just sounds right!
[DLBY]: So right now we are working on the entire ecosytem – “from Hollywood to Handset“, as we call it! Dolby is already experienced in dealing with the Movie Studios and Content Providers, and our technology, as you noted, is in a wide variety of consumer electronics – from Home AV, to PCs, to Consoles, and so on. What we are aiming to do is to reproduce the best possible experience for the consumer, no matter which device(s) they are using – and obviously a key part of that is now Mobile.
[INTM]: That makes perfect sense – with the “Convergence” of the in-house/out-and-about experience, end-users are looking to be able to consume content across a number of disparate platforms, whilst both time-shifting and place-shifting – maintaining audio and visual quality whilst this is going on is quite tricky, but I see Dolby as being exceedingly well-placed to do this! So, how do you feel about your competition?
[DLBY]: We feel we are well-positioned against our competition. We have been working with key Content Providers for a very long time , and our brand is synonomous with quality. Additionally, unlike some of our competition, our technology is not tied to a particular application, and/or content type.
[INTM]: So, a few final thoughts from you both – your feelings on (a) the B&O/Samsung Serenata, and (b) the iPhone!
[DLBY]: As regards the Serenata, it’s great! This sort of specialist device, along with the high-end devices and PMPs, is exactly where we think Dolby Mobile can bring something to the table right now. As for the iPhone, it is a great device that sets a new benchmark in many ways.
[INTM]: Well thanks very much Max and Mark for your time – I am looking forward to seeing your technology inside my next handset!
(Footnote: this technology is the real deal – the demo I heard was truly excellent, with great pick-up on both the EQ-ing of the audio, and also the spatialisation. The overall volume was also “louder”, but not in terms of pure noise – rather a much “fuller” sound. As I said at the start of this article – these guys are serious, and are bringing an incredible pedigree to bear on Mobile – I for one am willing Dolby to suceed, because their technology genuinely drives the progress of Mobile devices!)