Microsoft Announces Live Smooth Streaming - Adds Copies DVR Capabilities

Many of you may know that MIX09 is in full swing and Microsoft has announced not only Silverlight 3 Beta but also added some new live streaming capabilities to its platform.
Once of those additions is a feature called Live Smooth Streaming which, if I understand it correctly, provides the equivalent to Adobe's dynamic bitrate streaming by offering fallback bitrates if the connection speed on the user's side fluctuates. The term 'Live Smooth Streaming' is a little bit deceptive however since this service - as far as I understand it - is not true streaming at all, however it comes close to a streaming experience. Instead it uses chunks of HTTP progressively downloaded material to provide a stream-like experience. I guess 'Live Smooth HTTP Download' doesn't sound as sexy.

Another feature is the so-called Live PVR, basically a total rip-off of Adobe's DVR functionality introduced recently to FMS which lets users rewind a live event and catch up to it as well. Microsoft describes their service as a 'PVR in the cloud', and it runs on top of IIS 7 and Windows Server 2008. Ben Waggoner has all the details, mixed in with some marketing fluff.

While it's great to see competition take hold in this space I would really wish for Microsoft to be more innovative at times. Of course they are playing catch up with Flash on the Silverlight front, but I generally expect them to be more experienced in the video streaming space (they've been doing this for much longer than Adobe). We've seen a glimpse of the fact that Microsoft is able to innovate during the preview of the out-of-browser install feature in Silverlight 3, but the blatant copy of Adobe's DVR functionality seems a bit cheap to me. If copying can't be avoided then so be it, but couldn't you at least differentiate the feature a little bit, or top it somehow? That would really get Adobe into gear too and maybe speed up some of their own initiatives - I've heard they are working some new FMS features.


Adobe To Publish RTMP Specs

Great news today amidst the Inauguration celebrations: Adobe is to publish the specifications for its (apparently patented) RTMP protocol. This protocol (the real-time messaging protocol) is designed for high-performance transmission of audio, video, and data between Adobe Flash Platform technologies, including Flash Media Server. Other server platforms such as Wowza and Red5 had in the also added support for RTMP and this announcement should make it somewhat easier for third parties to develop compatible technologies (if there are still any unanswered question about RTMP that is).

According to Adobe's Serge Jespers, the RTMP details will soon be published on Adobe.com. The full press release is here.

"With the RTMP specification, developers and companies will be able to provide users with optimized audio, video and data streaming, no matter what kind of device the user is on or where the content is coming from," said Adobe CTO Kevin Lynch. "Our ongoing commitment to openness is accelerating adoption of the Flash Platform by developers and resulting in a new generation of Web applications, content and video experiences that run reliably across operating systems and devices."

Understandably Adobe will not release details of the secure variants of RTMP such as RTMPE since it forms the backbone of some of the content protection measures in Flash Media Server.


Wowza Media Server Pro Now Available as Software Subscription

Wowza Media Server Pro is now available under a software subscription licensing model. This offers anyone who wants to stream Flash the most full-featured version of Wowza Pro (Wowza Media Server Pro Unlimited with MPEG-TS) and a risk-free, flexible model for managing their licensing costs according to their customers' streaming demands - it allows Wowza Pro users to add/delete servers as needed and only pay for servers used.

Wowza Pro Software Subscription is an automated monthly license subscription for deployment on users own hardware. It is ideal for service providers (CDNs, streaming services and hosting providers) regardless of their size, but is also a great choice for non-service provider uses. Users can review subscription pricing and subscribe online at here. Pricing starts at $65/server and declines in volume (the first server for the first month is Free with payment of the set-up fee).

The full press release can be found here.


Adobe Flash Media Server 3.5 Now Available For Pre-Order

Adobe Flash Media Server 3.5 (FMS 3.5) is now available to pre-order. It will incorporate new features including Dynamic Streaming, DVR functionality, HTTP delivery support, and H.264 enhancements.
The upgrade price in the US is the US$349 (depending on your existing edition), with UK pricing being in line with that (and by that I mean: just change your currency symbol since the UK price puts the exchange rate to the US dollar more or less at 1:1 with a price of GBP 346.62).
You can download the current version (FMS3) from the Adobe website and give it a try.

Apologies for the earlier misinformation, I was under the impression that FMS 3.5 had actually shipped.


Flash Media Server 3.5 Announced, Includes Dynamic Streaming, DVR and Apache

Today Adobe announced the next version of Flash Media Server, FMS 3.5. Dynamic Streaming makes it easier to deliver a consistent stream even when bandwidth conditions and general network health changes during playback. While similar techniques were possible before it is now even easier and in particular much more seamless to integrate this functionality.
The DVR feature is great when viewing live streams, either to rewind back to the beginning of the broadcast or simply to re-view a certain part of the stream. I can see this being a great feature for sports broadcasts in particular.

FMS 3.5 now also ships with an in-built web server in the form of Apache. This allows developers to provide a single point of access to their content and they can now deliver SWF, JPEG, CSS, JS and other assets including video over it. It's notable that both RTMPT and HTTP can co-exist on the same port (80) and IP address.

Kevin Towes has a full length post on his blog outlining all the new features in FMS 3.5.


Cocomo Public Beta Launches

Adobe today announced the Cocomo public beta, a technology which allows developers to add real-time social capabilities into their web applications.
Cocomo basically leverages the Adobe Connect back-end to deliver features such as Data Messaging (think traditional Remote SharedObjects), VoIP Audio, Webcam Video, File Sharing, Text Chat and so on. The tool is provided in shape of a developer framework and component set that can be used to build Flex based applications.

Cocomo is definitely a very cool platform and on the surface it makes it easy to build real-time applications that may otherwise be quite difficult to build. But I also see an enormous overlap between Cocomo and Flash Media Server.

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New Features in Adobe Media Encoder

Today - as you probably know - is CS4 day. As part of the CS4 suite, Flash also got an update and with it ships the new Adobe Media Encoder (with Flash CS4 Professional that is). Not only has the encoder changed its name slightly, it has also seen a feature update and got new UI that is now more in line with the CS4 interface (click for screenshot).
In fact it is the same tool found in other Adobe professional video products such as Adobe Premiere Pro CS4 software and After Effects CS4 -- and it now supports H.264 encoding, and includes support for batch processing and also adds two-pass, variable bit-rate encoding. This is certainly a step up and brings it very close, if not on par, with dedicated and professional encoding tools. Or put it this way, Adobe Media Encoder will suffice most standard encoding tasks for web based video. Nice one.


Adobe Flash Media Encoding Server Announced

Adobe today announced the Flash Media Encoding Server at IBC. This is a new scalable, high-performance solution for converting multiple video file formats to Flash video (FLV/F4V) and the latest addition to the Adobe Flash Media Server family of products. The solution is powered by Rhozet, one of the leading providers of transcoding solutions.

At IBC2008, Adobe is also previewing new technologies that will be available in future versions of Adobe Flash Media Server. These include dynamic streaming for delivering the highest quality, uninterrupted viewing experience, and the ability to pause or rewind a live video stream. Expect more news from IBC over the coming days.

Full press release here.


BBC Adds More Channels To Simulcast Lineup

The BBC will be adding several channels to its online simulcast lineup shortly, including BBC Four, CBBC and CBeebies. This is in addition to the already announced simulcast (read: live streaming) of BBC One.

Viewing habits and TV consumption is rapidly changing and this announcement just underlines the obvious trend. I'm sure future generations will find it very strange indeed that programs used to start at set times. Of course the really cool thing about this announcement is the fact that Flash will once again play a key role, since the streams are likely to be streamed via the iPlayer or one of its live-streaming-baby-brothers. Personally, I'm determined to ride this wave... watch this space.

The full press release is here.

And the usual disclaimer for everyone not in the UK: sorry but you'll be GEOIP blocked when trying to access any of the BBC streams. Those fortunate enough to be in the UK must hold a valid TV license (yes, no kidding, even if you have no TV but watch on a laptop or mobile phone).


Imediasee Offers Pay-As-You-Go Video Streaming

One of my advertising partners, Imediasee, have just launched a pay-as-you-go video streaming service which requires no monthly fees or long term commitments.
The service is capable to delivering videos with the newly introduced H.264 codec for both live and on demand streaming and the announcement came alongside three new price promotions, in addition to their regular packages and include:
- On-demand video: 4,000GB for $999 only $0.25/GB, 33% off regular prices
- Live ad hoc streaming video: 2,000GB for $999 50% off regular prices with no reservation or long term commitment required stream live anytime
- Encoding of video: $20 per video plus $1 per minute for encoding save $25 per video (usually $45 plus $1/min.)

The full press release can be found here.


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