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Wireless networks are poised to enable a variety of existing and emerging multimedia streaming applications. As the use of wireless local area networks spreads beyond simple data transfer to bandwidth-intense, delay-sensitive, and loss-tolerant multimedia applications, addressing quality of service issues become extremely important. Currently, a multitude of protection and adaptation strategies exists in the different layers of the open systems interconnection (OSI) stack. Hence, an in-depth understanding and comparative evaluation of these strategies are necessary to effectively assess and enable the possible trade-offs in multimedia quality, power consumption, implementation complexity, and spectrum utilization that are provided by the various OSI layers. This further opens the question of cross-layer optimization and its effectiveness in providing an improved solution with respect to the above trade-offs. In this article we formalize the cross-layer problem, discuss its challenges, and present several possible solutions. Moreover, we also discuss the impact the cross-layer optimization strategy deployed at one station has on the multimedia performance of other stations. We introduce a new fairness concept for wireless multimedia systems that employs different cross-layer strategies, and show its advantages when compared to existing resource allocation mechanisms used in wireline communications. Finally, we propose a new paradigm for wireless communications based on competition, which allows wireless stations to harvest additional resources or free up resources as well as optimally and dynamically adapt their cross-layer transmission strategies to improve multimedia quality and/or power consumption.