We all know that Flash rules the roost when it comes to online video. We also know that HTML 5 could put a serious dent in that dominance. Now Microsoft is trying to do the same but in the HD streaming category with their upcoming IIS and Silverlight.
Microsoft wants you! Well, they want you to use their IIS Media Services 3.0 platform if you're going to be doing HD streaming over the web. The new version of the software will enable delivery of interactive, high-definition-quality Live Smooth Streaming. There will also be other new features like a new set of tools to deliver that content using Silverlight. They're set to preview the software later this month in Amsterdam at the IBC including Silverlight 4 with native multicast support and offline DRM support thanks to MS's PlayReady tech.
The new IIS will also use the new IIS Smooth Streaming Transport Protocol and the Protected Interoperable File Format (PIFF) spec.
In addition, the company announced the release of its IIS Smooth Streaming Transport Protocol and Protected Interoperable File Format (PIFF) specification under the Microsoft Community Promise, helping to ensure openness and industry interoperability. Great, another format, just what the industry doesn't need at all. They promise it will be open and interoperable but we have heard all of that from Microsoft in the past and frankly, I'm skeptical, as always.
Frederic Vincent, business development manager of Canal+ said, "Canal+ is very excited about Microsoft's innovative IIS Smooth Streaming technology, which will allow us to deliver an incredible video experience on the Web to our customers."
The Live Smooth Streaming protocol has been in beta for several months and has been used to stream the Tour de France and the Roland Garros 2009 International French Open Tennis Tournament on France Televisions; the IAAF Athletics World Championships, FINA Swimming World Championships on both France Televisions and RAI; the FIFA Confederations Cup South Africa 2009 on RAI; and Champions League Soccer on BSkyB; as well as events such as the Michael Jackson Memorial on Sympatico/MSN inMusic and SKY News. It was also used as Wimbledon Live delivered more than 6,500 minutes of live and on-demand Smooth Streaming video via a high-definition (HD), interactive online video experience.
IIS Media Services 3.0 and Silverlight 3 together provide the innovative platform that enables customers to deliver high-quality online media experiences that savvy online consumers have come to expect. IIS Media Services 3.0 is an integrated HTTP-based media delivery platform that delivers full HD streaming up to 1080p and provides real-time logging for data analysis. The platform also enables delivery of PlayReady-protected content for both on-demand and Live Smooth Streaming scenarios. Delivery of H.264 and Advanced Audio Coding formats over IIS Smooth Streaming is also enabled in IIS Media Services 3.0.
Microsoft has reiterated its 'dedication to openness' for developers by publishing this protocol under their Community Promise which means that third parties who wish to build their own client implementations that interoperate with IIS Media Services will be allowed the tools and support to do so.
The PIFF specification, also under the Community Promise, defines a standards-based file format that supports DRM interoperability (with PlayReady and other third-party DRM technologies), and provides a single standards-based encoding format appropriate for Smooth Streaming of audio and video content. In publishing PIFF and the IIS Smooth Streaming Transport Protocol, Microsoft intends to promote industry adoption of a video format optimized for Internet delivery, interoperable among a wide range of consumer devices, and openly available for use by all publishers to enable secure distribution and playback of high-value video.
It also means they would finally have their hand deep, deep into the online streaming pot which they have been trying to crack open and lick the honey out of so long some might think them Winnie the Pooh.
The new Silverlight 4 will give all sorts of ways to lock down content thanks to new PlayReady DRM features. That doesn't sound very open and inviting but it might to the big studios who will be interested in getting more of their content out to the masses but not having it shared without limits. It will also enable network-delivered updates, special offers and live events and more.
Product Information and Availability
IIS Media Services with Live Smooth Streaming and the Smooth Streaming player development kit will be released within the next 30 days. More information about IIS Media Services and making the switch to Smooth Streaming is available at http://iis.net/media.
More information on the Microsoft Community Promise is available at http://www.microsoft.com/interop/cp/default.mspx.
The Smooth Streaming player development kit is available for download at http://www.iis.net/media. More information about Microsoft Expression Encoder 3, including availability and pricing, is available at http://www.microsoft.com/expression/products/Encoder_Overview.aspx.
More information about Silverlight can be found at http://www.microsoft.com/silverlight or at the Microsoft Silverlight and Expression Studio Virtual Press Room at http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/presskits/silverlight/default.mspx.
The big question in my mind is, what happens if this gains widespread adoption? Will everyone need to then install a handful of Silverlight, Microsoft and PlayReady DRM applications on their computers just to view the content? Will it wreak havoc with other things much like other DRM packages have in the past? Perhaps what everyone will need is a Silverlight friendly PC and a Silverlight unfriendly PC if that's the case.
I'm not convinced that this is the way to go or that Microsoft is dedicated to their open and interoperable initiative just yet. I think we need further proof of their commitment. Something that shows they're not going to yank the carpet out from under us and leave us all hanging or that their DRM package isn't going to cause other problems.