for cre...
By and large, only users with T1 or
fiber connections can currently take                                            Sender...
I n d u s t r y Tr e n d s

fact, Windows Media is the only stream-      first quarter of this year. The company       as brief news clips and short fil...
I n d u s t r y Tr e n d s

       According to French, companies will
     have to alleviate content providers’ fears ...
players have not left room for another
leading competitor in the market.

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Computer: Video Streams into the Mainstream


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Computer: Video Streams into the Mainstream

  1. 1. INDUSTRY TRENDS for creating CD-based video applications. Video Streams It is still widely used for this purpose. However, QuickTime did not initially support streaming. Users had to down- load entire files before viewing them, into the thereby restricting online video to die- hard hobbyists with either fast Internet connections or a lot of free time. Several years later, companies began Mainstream releasing commercial streaming-video technologies. Some of the early vendors included VDOnet (which stopped selling its software earlier this year), VxTreme George Lawton (since acquired by Microsoft), and Progressive Networks (which changed its name to RealNetworks). T The most important technological he widespread adoption of advance that enabled streaming video streaming video on the Internet was the development of technology for appears ready to become the buffering and managing the flow of data next major frontier for online as it arrives on the client. Now, the client multimedia. sets up a TCP or UDP connection with Graphics, animation, and audio tech- the server and requests that content be nologies have already proliferated on the streamed into the client’s buffer. The con- Internet. However, streaming video—in tent is then managed by the player and which viewers can begin watching con- streamed from the buffer. tent almost as soon as it starts down- This permits streaming-video servers to loading—is only now developing as a send compressed files in a continuous mainstream technology. stream over the Internet, an intranet, or “In the past 18 months,” said Alex an extranet. The user views content in a Benik, an analyst with the Yankee Group, with [asymmetric digital subscriber lines player, which decompresses streaming files a market research firm, “streaming video (ADSL) service] and cable modems.” and sends video data to the visual display has evolved from being a toy to some- People are also using broadband fixed- and audio data to the speakers. There are thing that service providers of all kinds wireless and satellite technologies for stand-alone players and those that users can hope to generate revenue from.” Internet access. can integrate into a browser as a plug-in. The Gartner Group, a market research In addition to spurring consumer appli- QuickTime, RealPlayer, and Windows firm, estimates that the portion of US cations, streaming video also promises to Media can work both ways. companies using streaming media has fuel corporate applications over intranets Servers can distribute streaming video almost doubled, from 9 to 17 percent, and extranets to support distance learn- on demand from prerecorded files or as since last year. ing and training, corporate communica- a live broadcast feed. With live video, Benik said two of the key factors dri- tions, marketing, and advertising. servers must be multicast-enabled so that ving this trend are the increasing adop- In fact, said analyst Cushing Anderson they can efficiently send content to mul- tion of broadband services that speed of IDC, a market research firm, stream- tiple viewers at the same time. Figure 1 Internet access for users and the devel- ing video will help drive sales of distance- shows how this works. opment of backbone networks that speed learning applications from $1.1 billion A typical 56-Kbps modem connection the delivery of content by providers. in 1999 to $7.1 billion in 2002. can provide only the traditional small In the past, video has been too data A number of companies provide video window because it doesn’t have intensive for most users. However, the streaming-video technologies, but the enough bandwidth to support the amount growing use of broadband technologies major players are Apple’s QuickTime, of data necessary to fill a larger screen. has spurred the rapid growth of stream- Microsoft’s Windows Media, and Real- However, broadband Internet-access ing media, according to Martin French, Networks’ RealVideo. products and better compression/decom- vice president at, a streaming- pression (codec) technologies will let users video content provider. “A year ago,” he VIDEO-OVER-IP BASICS take advantage of the newer streaming- said, “the only people with fast Internet Apple pioneered digital video technol- video approaches that deliver full-screen access were with companies with T1 lines. ogy in 1991 with the development of video at 500 Kbps and even higher qual- Now we are seeing an awful lot of people QuickTime, which was originally designed ity video at 1 Mbps. 12 Computer
  2. 2. By and large, only users with T1 or fiber connections can currently take Sender’s Network advantage of these technologies. local router Camera router Theoretically, cable modems offer a maximum transmission speed of 10 Server Mbps, while DSL modems offer up to 1.5 Mbps. But in practice, consumers typi- Internet cally receive only 200 to 300 Kbps of sus- tained throughput, so they generally can’t make full use of the new streaming-video technologies, according to Ben Rotholtz, Network router RealNetworks’ general manager of prod- ucts and systems. However, he said, cable and DSL carriers are expected to deliver Network Network 600 to 900 Kbps as they upgrade their router router networks. Subscriber’s Subscriber’s Subscriber’s Subscriber’s KEY PRODUCTS local local local local The three most popular streaming-video router router router router products are Apple’s QuickTime 4 (which has been integrated into the MacOS but Subscribers which can also be downloaded separately), Microsoft’s Windows Media 7 (which has been integrated into Windows but which PC Laptop Television PC can also be downloaded separately), and RealNetworks’ RealVideo 8 (which runs Figure 1. A live streaming-video feed uses multicasting to send files to multiple viewers at the on the company’s RealPlayer). same time. The camera shooting the live scene sends its video and audio feeds to a server, The basic clients are free, although which then distributes the data as a single stream into the Internet. With multicasting, the data Apple and RealNetworks also sell en- is maintained as a single stream until it gets close to the recipients, at which point it is copied hanced clients. and redistributed. This avoids the bandwidth consumption that would occur if a different data Microsoft also sells NetShow Theater stream had to be sent from the server to each recipient. Multicasting also helps with scaling. Server, a high-end product that delivers full-screen, broadcast-quality video over high-bandwidth networks. NetShow is Both technologies’ clients support all Windows Media also includes digital- primarily designed for use over high- major platforms. rights management technology, which speed LANs and intranets, and its con- The Windows Media server runs only protects content providers’ intellectual tent can be run on a standard Windows on Windows, while the client supports property. The technology lets content Media player. only the Macintosh and Windows plat- owners prevent recipients from distrib- Users can access small-screen, lower forms. uting material without the author’s per- quality video from all three streaming- mission. video products with 56-Kbps and even Advantage to QuickTime Content producers are concerned slower modems. However, users who QuickTime is the oldest of the online about unauthorized distribution of their want high-quality video must be able to video technologies. According to Frank material. Therefore, streaming-media access the Internet at 500 Kbps for Casanova, Apple’s director of QuickTime companies want to convince producers RealVideo 8, 700 Kbps for QuickTime, product marketing, the product is sup- that it’s safe to provide quality content 720 Kbps for Windows Media 7, and up ported by more applications, including for Windows Media. to 8 Mbps for NetShow. The difference even Microsoft Word and Excel, than in access requirements is based on the competing technologies. Advantage to RealVideo products’ different codec algorithms. An advantage of RealVideo is that con- Advantage to Windows Media tent providers can encode files so that Platform support One advantage of Windows Media is clients can access them at different speeds. The QuickTime streaming server sup- that it is integrated with other Windows- The client can then select the best access ports the FreeBSD, Linux, MacOS, Solar- based technologies. This makes it sim- rate based on the available bandwidth. is, and Windows operating systems. The pler to implement and utilize for some RealVideo server supports the Linux, Windows users, especially those without BATTLE IN THE MARKETPLACE Solaris, and Windows operating systems. significant technical experience. The streaming-video market pits Real- July 2000 13
  3. 3. I n d u s t r y Tr e n d s Media Broadband Jumpstart coalition to ment at the Internet’s edge. The servers 25 30 encourage increased adoption and im- accept a video stream from a content provement of video and audio over high- provider’s master server and duplicate it speed connections via Windows Media. for recipients closer to the source. 20 Percent of US Internet users About 100 streaming-media-related com- In addition, telecommunications com- Unique users (millions) panies have joined the coalition. panies such as AT&T, GTE, and Sprint 20 15 Meanwhile, Apple and Microsoft have Communications have let RealNetworks recently licensed QuickTime and Win- deploy its own edge servers throughout dows Media for free to RealNetworks. If their networks. Apple has launched a 10 RealNetworks supports the technologies, similar infrastructure for QuickTime on 10 this could encourage content providers to top of Akamai Technologies’ large con- 5 develop more material for QuickTime tent-distribution network. and Windows Media because the content Meanwhile, some content providers could then also be shown on RealPlayer. distribute their material via multicasting, 0 The Yankee Group’s Benik said that which transmits one stream of data that RealPlayer Windows QuickTime Media although RealNetworks is the market is copied and redistributed close to the leader, the company is at a crossroads multiple recipients. This avoids some of Source: Nielsen//NetRatings and must decide if it wants to be a tech- the problems caused by the increased nology innovator, a multiservice Web bandwidth consumption that accompa- Figure 2. Of the major commercial streaming- portal designed to attract visitors and nies growing streaming-video usage. media technologies, RealNetworks’ Real- advertising, or a broadcast services Sometimes, providers can’t avoid con- Player has the biggest US market share by far, provider. He said, “I don’t think they will gestion. has an application followed by Microsoft’s Windows Media and be successful going in all three direc- called Burstware that sends video data Apple’s QuickTime. tions.” across the backbone in quick, large bursts for storage in a cache, which then Networks, a company whose only busi- STREAMING INTO THE FUTURE buffers the material. If a data transmis- ness is media, against Apple and Micro- Streaming video faces several key tech- sion is delayed over the network, the user soft, which have other business interests. nical and business challenges. can play content from the cache. As shown in Figure 2, RealPlayer has Interoperability. Streaming-video tech- 23.5 million unique users, representing Technical issues nology will need more standardization 29.41 percent of the 80 million US The key technical issues facing stream- to become truly widespread. Currently, Internet users; Windows Media Player ing video include Internet congestion, all the major streaming-video players has 9.4 million users, representing 11.75 interoperability, and compression. support QuickTime. percent of users; and QuickTime has 7.2 Internet congestion. Currently, online Microsoft’s Active Streaming Format million users, representing 8.98 percent video is subject to transmission inter- (ASF) is a low-overhead, open file format of users, according to a survey conducted ruptions because of Internet congestion, for storing streaming-multimedia con- this year by Nielsen//NetRatings, a com- particularly for users with lower band- tent. The company designed ASF to opti- pany whose activities include the mea- width connections. mize content delivery and to integrate surement of Internet-related audiences. Several network service providers— and synchronize different media types. To advance their positions, Microsoft such as AboveNet Communications, For example, ASF enables the synchro- and RealNetworks have purchased and Digital Island, and Exodus Communi- nization of images with an audio track. invested in other streaming-video com- cations—are selling access to their high- RealNetworks supports ASF. However, panies. And both companies, as well as bandwith networks to streaming-media Microsoft does not support RealVideo. Apple, are working with providers to content distributors. This lets distribu- These types of practices force some devel- develop compelling content for their tors bypass most Net congestion. In addi- opers to either design content in one for- technologies. tion, some service providers, such as mat, thereby losing audiences that use Microsoft is concentrating on devel- iBeam Broadcasting, have developed other formats, or spend additional time oping Windows Media technology and satellite distribution networks, which and money to develop, store, and serve integrating it into Windows. Apple and broadcast streaming-video signals to the content in multiple formats. RealNetworks, on the other hand, are edges of the Internet, again avoiding Compression. Data-compression algo- trying to increase marketplace support most Net congestion. rithms are critical to providing quality for their products with a multipronged Some providers avoid congestion by video at lower transmission speeds, so approach that includes media-publishing using other schemes to send transmissions work is continuing on better codec tech- and consulting services. from the Internet’s edge to recipients. For nologies. Last September, Microsoft promoted its example, vendors such as GMV Network Currently, Microsoft uses a slight vari- technology by forming the Windows have developed proxy servers for deploy- ant of the MPEG-4 codec algorithm. In 14 Computer
  4. 4. fact, Windows Media is the only stream- first quarter of this year. The company as brief news clips and short films. Most ing-video player that uses the MPEG-4 also reported profits for the last two providers give away their content, leav- standard, said Leonardo Chiariglione, quarters of 1999. ing them with only such revenue sources convener of the Moving Picture Experts Apple spokesperson Vanessa Rios as advertising. Group, a standards organization for would not provide figures but did say A few providers, however, such as digital-media codec technology. that the company is making money from Kanakaris Communications (http://www. Nielsen//NetRatings analyst Jarvis its QuickTime technology. and are developing Mak said RealNetworks’ two-pass en- Microsoft did not return calls for libraries of pay-per-view content. In fact, coding is currently the best compression information about whether its stream- has developed a converter technology. According to Mak, this tech- ing-media operations are profitable. box that lets a computer wirelessly send nology analyzes an entire video before Technology vendors. One way that audio and video to a television. MeTV. encoding it to determine how best to Apple and RealNetworks hope to make com’s French said, “Streaming video will compress the video on the second pass. money is by selling servers and services. not take the place of TV, but companies This reduces the final video file size, Microsoft, on the other hand, would like like ours need to pump [content] to the RealNetworks’ Rotholtz said, but the to sell more of the NT servers required to TV to get people to watch it.” two passes require 15 to 20 percent more stream Windows Media content. In However, streaming-video content time to carry out than a single pass. addition, increased use of Windows itself will have to be compelling for user Media could contribute to the increased interest in the technology to grow. “In Business issues use of the Windows OS, Microsoft’s core the last six months, there has been a huge As is the case with many technologies, product. proliferation in the number of sites with vendors are trying to figure out how to Content providers. Content providers video. The problem has been that no one make money from streaming video. also must determine how to make has offered the kind of content that con- Earlier this year, RealNetworks an- money with streaming media. Most sumers want,” said Gartner Group ana- nounced profits of $8.75 million for the streaming video consists of content such lyst Sujata Ramnarayan. July 2000 15
  5. 5. I n d u s t r y Tr e n d s According to French, companies will have to alleviate content providers’ fears Streaming Video with Java This approach has several advan- about piracy and distribution control tages, according to John Graham, In most streaming-video technolo- before they make more popular content founder of Graham Technology Solu- gies, users have to download plug-in available. tions (, which or stand-alone clients that play con- tent that must be compatible with the makes a Java applet and server used LOOKING AHEAD client platform. However, a number of for streaming content from such Industry observers question whether sources as live events, scientific instru- companies, such as the Geo Interac- Microsoft will overtake RealNetworks. ments, and satellites. For example, he tive Media Group (www.emblaze. They wonder whether the situation will said, there is no plug-in to install or com), are taking a different approach turn out like the browser market, in which update. by developing Java applets for stream- Microsoft’s Internet Explorer caught and In addition, because the applets use ing-video content. passed longtime leader Netscape Navi- Java, they can work with content When downloading content that gator, or like the Internet service provider developed on almost any platform, works via a Java applet, a user with a market, in which Microsoft’s MSN said Jarvis Mak, an analyst with Java-enabled browser also downloads hasn’t come close to catching the front- Nielsen//NetRatings, a company that the applet. The content is then streamed runner, America Online. measures Internet-related audiences through and viewed on the applet, which’s French said the stream- and activities. is then cached on the user’s machine. ing-media marketplace battle will take place primarily between Microsoft, which wants a role in the media-inten- sive Internet world of the future, and be as important a player and will appeal Other vendors have tried to play an RealNetworks, whose sole business is primarily to Macintosh users and graph- important role in the streaming-video bat- multimedia. He said QuickTime will not ics designers. tle but have failed because the three major CiSE EDUCATIONAL SOFTWARE CONTEST If you create great educational software, you can win profes- sional recognition, wide distribution of your software, and a $500 cash prize! Submission deadline: 7 August 2000 Notification of winners: 1 October 2000 Computing in Science & Engineering magazine wishes to recognize and reward authors of outstanding pedagogical software. Our Software Repository will give the science and engineering com- munity a first-rate central source for finding great Web-based pedagogical software. Winning entries must GET YOUR ENTRY FORM NOW! ✔ have sound scientific/eng- CiSE Educational ineering/technical content appropriate to university-level Software Contest and continuing-education 10662 Los Vaqueros Circle students Los Alamitos, CA 90720-1314 ✔ present it in a pedagogically effective way (for instance, e-mail: offer good ancillary material) ✔ accomplish something that is particularly well suited to the URL: computer ✔ be freely available through the Internet (entries that run under standard Web browsers are encouraged) 16 Computer
  6. 6. players have not left room for another leading competitor in the market. Join the The Gartner Group’s Ramnarayan said RealNetworks is the market leader in part because it has developed a kind of ecosystem for its technology. It has a large consumer base for its players, a large content base, and a large set of tools, with each element feeding the oth- ers, she explained. However, said Rob Enderle, a vice IEEE Computer Society president and research leader with the Giga Information Group, a market research firm, Windows Media is catch- ing up with RealNetworks’ technology. Moreover, he said, Windows Media is part of the integrated Windows platform, which means it is less complex and thus more attractive to users. As for the technology itself, MPEG’s Chiariglione said he expects it to remain online at largely the same in the near future, except perhaps for widespread adoption of dig- ital-rights-management technology. French predicted that researchers will develop better compression encoding technologies during the next two or three years, which will improve video quality. Complete the online application A growing trend is the use of Java applets for streaming media. (See the sidebar and “Streaming Video with Java.”) Eventually, Enderle said, a range of machines, including Walkman-like de- • Get immediate online access vices, will incorporate streaming-media capabilities, which will bring the technol- to Computer ogy to more people. French said, “Streaming media is the future and is coming fast. We saw music • Sign up for a FREE e-mail alias on the Internet start a few years ago as poor-quality reproductions playing only on specialist sites. Now it has become high-quality [audio] streaming over the Internet at all times today. Video on the • Access the CS Digital Library Internet will follow the same pattern.” ✸ for only $50* George Lawton is a freelance technology writer based in Brisbane, California. Con- And that’s just part of . . . tact him at The World’s Computer Society *Regular price $99. Offer expires 15 August 2000 Editor: Lee Garber, Computer, 10662 Los Vaqueros Circle, PO Box 3014, Los Alamitos, CA 90720-1314; July 2000 17