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Summary:

When Apple upgraded its iPhone operating system in June, it included some highly prominent and loudly demanded features, like search and copy and paste. But the Cupertino, Calif., computer maker also added some behind-the-scenes upgrades that haven’t yet started to show up in most iPhone users’ […]

When Apple upgraded its iPhone operating system in June, it included some highly prominent and loudly demanded features, like search and copy and paste. But the Cupertino, Calif., computer maker also added some behind-the-scenes upgrades that haven’t yet started to show up in most iPhone users’ daily experiences. One of them, HTTP video streaming, has the capability to substantially change how mobile video is perceived and consumed.

HTTP streaming enables publishers to give users a better video experience by employing adaptive streaming techniques, something other players such as Microsoft, Adobe Systems, Move Networks and Swarmcast already offer (though Adobe uses a more traditional proprietary real-time streaming protocol to do so, rather than sending chunks of video over standard HTTP like the others). That means that watchers can enjoy a continuous, smooth video experience. The stream intelligently adjusts to the highest quality a viewer can receive at each moment. If the connectivity worsens, a lower quality stream is substituted without interruption or buffering. (For a more extensive explanation about adaptive streaming, see this subscription-only piece from GigaOM Pro.)

Apple only made its HTTP streaming plans known to the world in the very beginning of June, so very little content is available in the format now. However, it let two encoding companies, Inlet Technologies and Envivio, in on its plans so they could prepare solutions for content providers. (Here‘s an interview with an Inlet executive about how exactly Apple’s HTTP streaming works.) One Inlet implementation, with Major League Baseball’s At Bat application, is already live.

But where it gets really interesting is that Apple’s HTTP streaming is available via the iPhone’s Safari browser, without the downloading of any application. And both Inlet and Envivio have prepared demonstration sites so you can see video sharpen to adjust to your connection in real time. Through either site, you can view live-streaming, fast-loading, high-quality video in QuickTime right from your mobile browser.

Inlet’s test site, made in partnership with Akamai, can be found at http://iphone.akamai.com. Envivio’s demo is not publicly available yet, but those who are interested can sign up for a pass here.

Some open Internet advocates have cried foul on iPhone carrier AT&T’s handling of MLB’s At Bat app, saying its HTTP streaming-powered live game broadcasts do exactly what AT&T has prohibited Sling Media from doing: redirecting television over the mobile network.

But that controversy belies the opportunity Apple’s new video streaming offers. Because HTTP streaming is possible through the browser, developers who use it don’t need to pass through Apple and AT&T’s thorny App Store approval process. (They also don’t have to expend the cost and effort of building out a specialized app.) At this point, anyone who enables the technology is free to run it on 3G or Wi-Fi.

Embedded above is a short demo video we made of the two HTTP streaming sites playing on my iPhone. You can see for yourself that they load up over 3G in my browser with a continuous smooth stream. We can’t wait to watch what people do next with this stuff.

This article also appeared on BusinessWeek.com.

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  1. What to read on the GigaOM network Wednesday, July 1, 2009

    [...] Amazon’s e-book pricing (jkOnTheRun) How to beat the remote working blues (WebWorkerDaily) Video: Apple’s HTTP adaptive video steaming in action (NewTeeVee) Cheat sheet: Google’s PowerMeter vs. Microsoft’s Hohm (Eath2Tech) Question: [...]

  2. HTTP Adaptive Streams Come to Mobiles Before Desktops, Looks Incredible Wednesday, July 1, 2009

    [...] it hits the traditional desktops and notebooks, but this is one of those times. Over at NewTeeVee, Liz shows off a video that demonstrates Apple’s HTTP adaptive video streaming. Support for the feature is already in the new iPhone 3.0 software and it offers two key [...]

  3. Apple Makes it Easier for Websites to Provide High-Quality Video to iPhone Users – blog.easyinternetvideo.com Wednesday, July 1, 2009

    [...] Gannes, at NewTeeVee and Businessweek.com points to the fact that Apple’s recent iPhone upgrade includes the [...]

  4. HTTP Adaptive Streams Come to Mobiles Before Desktops, Looks Incredible | MostReviews.com Wednesday, July 1, 2009

    [...] it hits the traditional desktops and notebooks, but this is one of those times. Over at NewTeeVee, Liz shows off a video that demonstrates Apple’s HTTP adaptive video streaming. Support for the feature is already in the new iPhone 3.0 software and it offers two key [...]

  5. Akamai to Make iPhone Video Streaming Smooth Thursday, July 2, 2009

    [...] the iPhone in the U.S., might try to block. For more details on this, check out the awesome story Liz did about HTTP video on the iPhone or her in-depth look at adaptive bit-rate streaming over at our subscription site, GigaOM Pro. For [...]

  6. I didn’t realize that this was one of the new additions that Apple was adding to the new iPhone OS. Thanks for the info!

  7. iPhone Windowed HTTP Live Streaming Using Amazon S3 and Cloudfront Proof of Concept | IONCANNON Monday, July 6, 2009

    [...] you are looking for something you can buy out of the box it appears that Akamai is doing iPhone video streaming now. I believe that the following solution using Amazon S3 and Cloudfront is probably as good as [...]

  8. Zephyrus of the Anemoi » HTTP Live Streaming test sites Friday, July 10, 2009

    [...] might happen if you’re not using Safari 4 and the latest version of QuickTime), then you can visit this site to see an embedded video of the tech in [...]

  9. Now if only Time Warner would jump on this to allow customers to stream content from their DVR to their iPhone through a web interface. Life would be good.

  10. Report: Adobe to Support HTTP Streaming Friday, August 28, 2009

    [...] with others in the video infrastructure market, including Microsoft Silverlight, Move Networks and now Apple. However it would put a dent in Adobe’s proprietary streaming [...]

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