Video will comprise 90 percent of web traffic within four years, according to Cisco. By 2013, 13 exabytes of data per month or about 23 percent of total IP data traffic will be video delivered over the web to a PC. But as anyone who has spent enough time watching Hulu, MLB.tv or any other TV-like video on the web can tell you, the user experience can be a crapshoot.
Television delivered over-the-air or via a cable provider is like the Starbucks of video. You know exactly what you’re going to get, whether you’re in Biloxi, Miss., or New York City. Online video is more like grabbing a cup of coffee in a local shop or a diner. Some places it’s going to be awesome, and some places your latte is going to be a cup of coffee with extra cream.
This is because in the TV world, the service provider, be it a cable company or a telco delivering IPTV, controls every part of the chain once the content hits its cable plant or central office. It controls the pipe over which your “Dog Whisperer” reruns are delivered, and it’s sending it to one device — a television via a set-top box it has given to you and tested on its network. But video packets coming through the web don’t live such a sheltered life.
To understand why the online viewing experience is such a crapshoot, it’s best to begin at the end, where the diversity and number of devices causes a lot of problems. The beauty of IP video is that anything connected to the web with the right kind of software has the potential to show video, be it a phone, a picture frame, a television connected to a Roku or a Slingbox, or a computer. Each of these devices may run a different type of operating system, have different video-viewing software (or none at all), and require a different format of video.