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Summary:

http://blip.tv/play/AYGM3GKF_ik There aren’t many times where an exciting new web technology comes to handheld devices before 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 […]

http://blip.tv/play/AYGM3GKF_ik

There aren’t many times where an exciting new web technology comes to handheld devices before 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 benefits.

For starters, you don’t need to either download or pay for an application to view HTTP video streams, since in theory you can view it in a browser. And since the data is sent over HTTP with other traditional web traffic, you don’t need to punch a firewall hole to consume the content. Using HTTP also allows content to be broken down into viewable chunks so the provider can send the most optimized chunk to viewers at any given time. That’s where the “adaptive” part optimizes video playback based on the speed of your connection. In the video demo, you can see this happen over a 3G connection: the video starts out a little fuzzy, but eventually cleans itself up rather nicely.

iPhone owners can view the same demos at http://iphone.akamai.com to see live streams of NASA TV or FoxBusiness.com Live, plus on-demand segments of Storm Chasers, Deadliest Catch and several other channels. I tested a few videos on my iPhone 3GS and the quality was outstanding. In some ways, it rivals and may even exceed the great experiences I’ve had with SlingPlayer Mobile, which also optimizes the media stream. Here’s a screen-cap from my phone to give you an idea of what I’m seeing once the optimization takes place:

adaptive-streaming

As I alluded to above, this functionality is on mobiles first. Support for HTTP adaptive streaming is due to arrive in Apple’s next operating system update, called Snow Leopard, which ships in September of this year.

  1. Just a few things I’d like to say.

    ‘you don’t need to either download or pay for an application to view HTTP video streams, since in theory you can view it in a browser’

    Not correct. They’re just using HTTP to push the data over. You still need Quicktime X to view it.
    This isn’t anything new, most flash videos work in this way, aside from using multiple streams.
    In theory, with enough Javascript and the right callbacks you could do this in the HTML 5 video element.

    ‘Using HTTP also allows content to be broken down into viewable chunks so the provider can send the most optimized chunk to viewers at any given time.’

    This has nothing to do with using HTTP, this can be done over any transport protocol you care to choose. The downside to HTTP is that for real-time streaming you get lag if you can’t download it quick enough, or have high error rates.

    What Apple have created is this:
    1) A media splitter that takes a file and re-encodes it in around 10 second chunks at various bitrates. It also produces an index file saying what filenames are which parts and which bitrates.
    2) Got Quicktime to download a chunk and if it takes too long, go for a lower bitrate one for the next, and if it came down easily, a higher bitrate one.

    The most likely reason for the higher quality over the
    SlingPlayer Mobile is that the re-encoding is done offline, so you can do better analysis of the stream and make the best use of your bitrate.

    This in no way requires an OS update, just a Quicktime update.

    It’s a clever idea, but not a new one (both RealPlayer and Windows Media Player support this already) and it wouldn’t be too hard to replicate this in Flash/Silverlight in an afternoon.

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    1. Yup, could be doable with HTML 5 and perhaps I over-simplified the process. When I said this would hit Mac OS X with Snow Leopard, I realize that the OS isn’t needed for this playback, but the version of QuickTime coming with it will support it.

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  2. New or not, it definitely makes sense!

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  3. I just tried this on the Wash DC Metro (the part above ground that is — there’s no signal underground for AT&T yet like there is for Verizon). Anyway, the signal has been solid and I’ve been watching Fox news the whole time! Wow…..just wow…..

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  4. Strangely the akami site doesn’t believe that I have 3.0 on my iPhone even though i do…

    -shrug-

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