All the wonderful stuff that we're supposed to be able to accomplish with our cell phones still seems to be just a little further down the road than many people hoped. Streaming audio and video are among the absentees in the Promises not Achieving Expectations department, but some folks are looking to MPEG-4 as a solution for multimedia via cell phones. The limitation in getting it to market (as with many things) seems to be a lack of bandwidth. There may be a more compact solution on the horizon. According to a story over at EETimes.com , a Japanese company called Office Noa Inc. has developed an alternative to MPEG-4 that has gained backers in Japan, South Korea and China. The proprietary compression scheme, called Nancy, will be used to send video e-mail over the J-Phone in Japan and is also being used in Sharp Corp.'s new Zaurus PDA. Office Noa has already shown off video transmission to a notebook PC at 512 kbits/second, to a PDA at 256 kbits/s and to a cell phone at 28.8 to 32 kbits/s. The codec is based on a proprietary algorithm called Structured Meta Scale Polygon, which divides images into blocks of various shapes and sizes for compression. Nancy uses square blocks ranging from 1 x 1 to 32 x 32 pixels to divide an image, depending on its complexity, to keep video file transfers small and light. The video compression and decompression codec uses 30 to 40 kBytes of memory, and is said to consume about one-tenth of the power compared of an MPEG-4 operation. Still have to admit that I wish cell phone developers would work on improving service coverage before moving on to the fancy stuff. Streaming video won't do you much good if you can't even get a signal to make a simple voice call.