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We discuss the benefits of using realistic rate-distortion-complexity (R-D-C) models to guide ubiquitous multimedia streaming systems. At the server or proxy, on-the-fly bitstream adaptation to varying network conditions and diverse end-devices' processing capabilities can be performed by relying on accurate (pre-computed) R-D-C models. To accommodate various types of receivers with different resources, we introduce the concept of generic complexity metrics (GCMs) which quantify in a generic manner the decoding complexity of a compressed video sequence. A state-of-the-art motion-compensated wavelet-based coding scheme is used to illustrate how R-D-C models can be computed for a particular compression scheme. Finally, we propose a receiver-driven streaming framework and show how R-D-C models can be used to assist real-time wired/wireless multimedia transmission applications.