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Microsoft Fires Back at Flash-Powered

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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 (s MSFT) because of the significant problems we encountered last year,” and passive-aggressively praising its new video platform provider Adobe (s ADBE) 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.

17 Responses to “Microsoft Fires Back at Flash-Powered”

  1. grusellag

    I read this story recently and was astonished at MLB’s cheek. They are legendary among vendors as being difficult to work with and nearly impossible to satisfy. Anyone want to take bets that in two years or less they’ll throw out Adobe (a perfectly decent company with great technology) for a bunch of tendentious reasons?

    Meanwhile, Silverlight is getting great buzz among the people that I know who’s work it is to deal with digital media. I’m no shill for Microsoft (Windows Vista anyone?), but this is a case of MLB abusing yet another supplier to them. I think they may find out that this time they’re fighting two or three classes above their weight.

  2. Rupert.L

    I wanted to make an informed decision on whether I should subscribe to the service, so I searched MLB.TV on twitter, and what I saw was overwhelmingly positive. I think this story has legs because it’s a battle between two big companies, which is always fun to watch.

  3. Patricia

    I just bought MLB to get televised games on the internet after having tried the demo version. The demo version worked great, but when I tried to watch the archived Yankees game from yesterday, it kept stopping, and I had to exit the system and go back in. It’s a comfort to know that other people have this problem, and if it stays this bad I will cancel my subscription (I guess I have four days left to do that). However, it works at least part of the time, while I couldn’t get last year’s system to work at all.

  4. Quality of Service over the public internet… consistent user experience… good luck with that, no matter what apps or plugins you’re using.

    This ain’t OTA TV where you have an FCC mandating standards and a standardized hardware receiver.

  5. ctreada

    Silverlight is far better than Flash for HD video, at least in my experience. Maybe was up for bid & whored themselves out for a suboptimal multimedia experience. If I were a paying customer & baseball fan like Fred, I’d be pissed.

  6. Fred Smythe

    I have MLB.COM. For the 3 days I have been trying to watch baseball. Trying, I say because I have not watched one complete inning yet. I was advised my bandwidth of 2200 kps was very good. The action starts then the action stops.
    When I complained I was told I could have a full refund, IF I was in the first 5 days of signing up.
    Yea, it took me 2 week trying to get a spring training game.
    Guess I’ll sit by my radio and listen. I would use game day audio, but that also stops ever so often.
    Never again….

  7. Senior Flasher

    Within 2 months of release, Flash Player 10 already has > 50% penetration with variable bit-rate (aka Smooth Streaming). By now they’re well over 120%!!! snark