Wowza Media Server 3 Released

The new software releases are coming thick and fast, this time it's Wowza's turn as they have just released version 3 of their media server platform.

So what's new in this release? Here are the highlights:

1) Live transcoding capabilities via the Wowza Transcoder AddOn. This feature allows the server to transcode a single incoming stream on the fly and serve it up in different formats. From the press release: "Wowza Transcoder takes advantage of standard hardware to transform incoming live streams from encoders, IP cameras, IPTV headends, and other live sources into multiple stream sets for Flash RTMP and HTTP Dynamic Streaming (HDS), HLS, smooth streaming, and non-adaptive delivery for RTSP/RTP and MPEG-TS."

2) Time shifting of live streams: This one sounds similar to FMS's DVR feature and allows for the rewinding and catch up on live streams. Useful to have.
3) Multi-DRM Support: Wowza now supports a range of digital rights management platforms including on-the-fly encryption.

4) Reduced pricing for the monthly subscription. The Wowza Media Server 3 Monthly Edition is now $55 per month for the first server, a reduction of 15% from the previous version. The Perpetual license price remains unchanged.
The Transcoder, nDVR and DRM AddOns are priced separately, please consult the Wowza website for details.

You can find the full press release here


Microsoft Releases HTML5 Video Player Framework

The following tweet by Mike Downey caught my eye this morning. He announced that Microsoft have released Player Framework, which in their words is 'an open source video player framework for HTML5, Silverlight, Windows Phone and other application platforms'. Upon closer inspection it is the former Silverlight Media Framework, shifted towards HTML5.

It's interesting to note that this Player does not use Flash as a fallback technology, but enables developers instead to use Silverlight, or indeed choose from a variety of combinations such as HTML5 only (video tag), Silverlight only, fallback to HTML5 or fallback to Silverlight.
Whilst the player itself looks as one would expect, offering features such as mute, poster frame and full screen mode it also claims to add support for plugin models, advertising standards support, W3C timed text (TTML) for captions amongst other things.

What the demo also shows is the effort involved in providing a consistent cross platform experience when using the video tag. I'm not sure why, but when I tried the demo in FireFox on my Mac the 'Fallback to Silverlight' went straight to Silverlight and did not play the HTML5 content, but the HTML-only tab worked fine. Moreover since Silverlight does not seem to be compatible with the 64bit mode of my browser I saw no content at all, just a prompt to install Silverlight (which I am sure I already had installed - but maybe only a 32bit version?). I guess we can blame this on the beta status of the framework. But why not fall back to Flash anywhere? Is it really just because Flash-hating is a sport these days, or do companies simply not care about providing a good user experience? Is it too much to ask to detect the fact that I cannot run Silverlight and serve up a SWF instead?

Fullscreen mode is another sore point it seems. Whilst the framework claims to support fullscreen mode it really is just a full-browser mode - that's not full screen in my book. I also noticed some audio problems which surfaced in a delay when mute and unmute was selected.

All in all I congratulate Microsoft for putting in some effort and I am sure adding Flash fallback (let's be serious here: it makes a lot more sense than Silverlight fallback) would not be too difficult.
The plugin architecture of the framework also looks very useful, and some of the core features of the player are implemented in that way, with JavaScript providing the glue to it all.

You can check out the player demos here.


Uvault Launches New Multi-Platform Streaming Service

Long standing Flash Media Server hosting and streaming media provider Uvault have launched a new multi-platform streaming service. The new service supports both Flash as well as HLS and RTSP, and is suited to deliver live and on demand content not only to desktop computers but also mobile devices.

In addition to the streaming delivery of the content the service also offers a media management console, adaptive streaming features, a custom player wizard and extensive reporting.

Prices start at $100/month for on demand and $50/month for live broadcasts. A free trial is available.

To find out more head over to Uvault's website.


New Wins For Wowza

More evidence that Adobe needs to step up their game with FMS as the ever popular Wowza Media Server announces several new developments. Not only did they manage to sign up LifeSize Communications, a division of Logitech, who have licensed Wowza Media Server 2 software to support the delivery of streaming video via their LifeSize Video Center.
They also announced that Netromedia have partnered with Wowza "to provide customers with unmatched freedom for streaming live and on-demand content to online audiences on any screen."

Wowza is stepping up the pressure with a media server offering that is undoubtedly very flexible both in terms of ingestion protocol support as well as platform reach with being able to stream not only to Flash Player but also to iDevices, Silverlight, Quicktime and more.

Disclosure: both Wowza and Netromedia are advertising partners of this blog


New Media Server Releases: FMS 3.5.3 and Wowza 2.0

I'm very late with this piece of news, I know, but in case you haven't heard both Adobe and Wowza have released updates to their respective Media Server technologies. I must admit that one of these updates appears more significant than the other as Wowza have pushed out a major new version with Wowza Media Server 2.0.

Before I outline the details of that though let me first point you to the newest updater for FMS, bringing it to version 3.5.3. As always you can grab the file right here.
This version of FMS is essentially a service pack which includes bug fixes and performance improvements for DVR, Dynamic Streaming and playback. It even includes security fixes to correct some critical vulnerabilities.
The FLVCheck tool also saw an update, and Flash Media Server 3.5.3 now has full support for the smart buffer management controls introduced in Adobe Flash Player 10.1. These controls include support for seeking within the buffer, stepping through a video, slow and fast playback in the buffer as well as re-establishing a connection without interrupting the stream. You can find more details about the buffer enhancements in the Flash Player 10.1 ActionScript 3 API documentation that's now available on Labs.

The team at Wowza has been very busy too and released a massive update to their Wowza Media Server, updating the platform to what they describe as a Unified Media server. Unified because Wowza can now stream not only to Flash clients but also supports iPhone, Silverlight and even IPTV clients. Not too shabby!
In terms of transport mechanisms this means Wowza now supports Adobe's RTMP based protocols, Apple's HTTP Streaming, Microsoft's Smooth Streaming, RTSP/RTP delivery for Apple QuickTime, mobile and other clients as well as MPEG-TS for IPTV set-top delivery. The full press release is here.

I think it is awesome to have this kind of competition in the market and the work that the relatively small team at Wowza is churning out will certainly give Adobe some food for thought, especially when it comes to interoperability with other runtimes and platforms. I think if I was in Adobe's shoes I'd reach into my pocket and make them an offer they can't refuse - before somebody else does.


Wowza Wins Reader's Choice Awards

The guys are Wowza continue to be hard at work pushing their platform - with good success as it turns out. They took first place in two categories at the Streaming Media Reader's Choice Awards for Best Streaming Innovation and Best Server Hardware/Software.
"The Streaming Media Readers' Choice Awards are the only awards of their kind in the online video industry," says Streaming Media magazine editor Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen. "While other awards focus exclusively on content, this is the only awards program that honors the technology that makes it all possible, and it's definitely the only one where the people decide who wins. And this year, more than 5,000 votes were cast for more than 200 nominees. Clearly, people care deeply about the tools they use to get their jobs done."

The full press release is here. Well done and well deserved guys, it's amazing what a dedicated team can achieve.


Adobe TV Launches New Website

You may have heard by now that Adobe have relaunched Adobe.TV. Adobe have listened to feedback and greatly improved the site through a better navigation system, more robust search and more interactive capabilities. Incidentally the video player used on Adobe.TV is one of the first public video players which utilises the Open Source Media Framework (OSMF).

The site now offers new additions such as a resizable pop-out window that allows users to view content while simultaneously working within their Adobe applications. A new homepage provides quick and easy access to relevant episodes, with the ability to sort by most popular, most viewed, highest rated and recently added. And users can download the Adobe Media Player to view and save content offline, and receive new programming as soon as it is released.

I've used the site to watch a few episodes by the Flex Team and I must admit that the new site is a definitive improvement. While there are some minor glitches still to be ironed out I think this is a destination to keep an eye on. And the quality of the content is superb - which is of course the most important part.


I Know You Know: Google is to Acquire On2 Technologies

I'm sure you've heard the news by now that Google is to acquire On2 Technologies, makers of Flix Standard, Pro, Exporter, Live, Engine and Directshow SDK, plus intellectual property holder of a whole range of video codecs which include VP6, a video codec that Adobe has licensed from On2 and included into the Flash Player (Flash includes a VP6 decoder - the only video encoder in Flash is still Sorenson Spark).
In many respects the VP6 codec played a huge role in the success of Flash video as it quickly became the codec of choice for anyone encoding Flash video for the web.

The Twittersphere is buzzing with chatter about the deal which sees Google handing over around $106.5 million - peanuts in Google's world, a company which is valued at over $150 billion (who really cares about a few billion here or there :).
I'm wondering what this deal means for Flash video and for HTML5. I guess that in the short term, Flash will be unaffected since there is now a clear move towards H.264, and existing license agreements with On2 should remain unaffected too. But what about HTML5? This new standard (which actually isn't one yet) is in real need of a *decent* video codec which is not burdened with royalty fees (as may or may not be the case with H.264).

No surprise that this deal is seen by some (mainly TechCrunch commentators) as yet another Flash (video) killer. Yawn. Others speculate that Google may open source one or more codecs, or make them freely available. That's speculation right now and I could see it go either way, there are many reasons for one or the other (or neither) to happen. We'll see.

Then there are Google's communication tools - a decent video codec is handy for those to say the least, and it's no surprise that Skype is one of the VP7 licensees.

This is a smart move by Google, and I'm actually surprised they haven't done this sooner. The price they paid seems a bargain too, and so Google will soon own the codec technologies which power the majority of web video today. We'll see what Google's plans are from here, but since they do no evil we have nothing to worry about, right? Right? Hello, anyone here?

The full press release can be seen here.


Open Source Media Framework Released (Formerly Strobe)

Adobe have today announced the open source release of the project formerly known as Strobe. The Open Source Media Framework (OSMF) provides a robust code base for media playback of any kind (video, audio, SWFs, images and more).
I've been briefly involved in the Strobe pre-release program and while I haven't built anything meaningful with it yet I have to hand it to Adobe for making a really great effort here. This framework is a solid foundation for any sort of media player that you may want to build, and since it does not tie you to a specific UI (quite different to what the FLVPlayback component provided) it gives you great flexibility for your own players. A set of APIs and plugin hooks allow you to also build your own extensions for the framework while maintaining compatibility with the underlying code base.

Admittedly the learning curve will be a bit steep for some but I have no doubt that we will soon see a few more packaged and easy to digest players pop up which can be used 'off the shelf'. I also expect all the major CDNs to release plugins for OSMF or document ways to interface with their backends - as we know, almost every major CDN currently has its own quirky way of connecting and playing a Flash stream.

There's more to OSMF than what I can cover here and I suggest you head over to the Adobe website and check it out for yourself.


Wowza Ups the Game - Adds Support for Silverlight, iPhone

Wowza has previewed their latest version of Wowza Media Server at NAB. Named 'Wowza Media Server Pro Advanced', the upcoming platform will support multiple protocols for streaming video and thereby enable customers to not only stream to Flash clients but also to Silverlight, iPhone and Quicktime. Even IPTV set-top boxes will be supported via MPEG-TS.

Wowza is clearly focused on becoming the main hub for unified video streaming across platforms.
The company plans to make Wowza Media Server Pro Advanced commercially available in the second half of 2009. Pricing will be announced at a later date. All purchases of Wowza Media Server Pro Unlimited editions after April 8, 2009 are eligible for a free upgrade to Wowza Media Server Pro Advanced.


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