Microsoft Fires Back at Flash-Powered MLB.com

Microsoft was none too happy to hear Bob Bowman, CEO of Major League Baseball Advanced Media, air dirty laundry in public yesterday. Bowman gave a scathing interview to CNET, saying MLB “has an ongoing dispute with Microsoft because of the significant problems we encountered last year,” and passive-aggressively praising its new video platform provider Adobe for being “a company committed to the customer experience in video” and “a partner that continues to invest in their product.”

mlbfrozenIn particular Bowman pointed out Adobe’s rallying cry, Flash’s ubiquity: “You see a high-grade product that’s in some form on 99 percent of the browsers,” he said.

So Silverlight product manager Steve Sklepowich replied on the Silverlight team blog — passive-aggressively, of course! — without explicitly mentioning the CNET comments. In parallel with Bowman’s praise for the ubiquity of Flash (and implication that users like the MLB player better because they already have Flash installed), Sklepowich praised MLB’s use of a third-party plug-in that enables higher-quality streaming by dynamically adjusting to users’ Internet connections.

Silverlight has 50 percent penetration, according to Microsoft, but the MLB plug-in Swarmcast NexDef has “virtually no adoption.” (And Sklepowich should know; last year’s Silverlight-powered MLB player used NexDef, too; though this year Microsoft added similar functionality of its own, called Smooth Streaming.) Here’s the whole bit — gotta love the snark.

Today we saw that MLB went live with a video streaming solution that is built using Adobe Flash and the Swarmcast NexDef browser plug-in for their HD streaming video experience. It is an example of how you can deliver higher quality experiences on the Web. It also highlights how users are willing to accept additional browser plug-ins to get those experiences.

While Flash 9 may have high penetration, the Swarmcast NexDef plug-in that helps power MLB’s HD experience has virtually no adoption. Ubiquity here is a red herring – what customers really want are high quality solutions. Silverlight has been doing that since its inception and already supports the ability to deliver true HD using IIS Smooth Streaming with no additional plug-in required.

What Sklepowich doesn’t argue is that the Silverlight-powered MLB player worked perfectly. But users are already griping about problems with the Flash-powered implementation, too. Om was none too happy yesterday, saying the MLB player crashed his browsers and even his computer when he was trying to watch his beloved Yankees on Opening Day.

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