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IBC 2008 Kicks Off
Highlights in the early announcements from Amsterdam—from companies like Microsoft, Digital Rapids, HaiVision, and Motorola—emphasize the growth in H.264 and set-top box penetration.
Fri., Sept. 12, by Tim Siglin
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The annual IBC show is up and running, and a slew of announcements coming out of the show surrounding mobile delivery and H.264—especially live HD encoding—reinforce the fact that Europe is a growing streaming media hotbed.

In fact, a new study indicates that Europe’s youth are leading the way on both online and mobile streaming.

"Nearly 50% of under 25s from the five major Europe markets are now regularly streaming TV shows or movies from broadcaster websites," according an announcement by Strategy Analytics’ Digital Media research arm.

"Broadcasters have been successful in reaching out to those demographics which have been drifting away from traditional television," said the company’s Director of Strategy, Martin Olausson.

Microsoft
Microsoft’s big announcement, covered by many news sources, is the inclusion of H.264 playback in Silverlight. While it’s not certain whether H.264 encoding will be included at some future date, Ben Waggoner provided a good perspective on his blog on why Microsoft chose to add H.264 playback.

"So, why MPEG-4 support in Silverlight?" asked Waggoner, a technical evangelist for Microsoft’s codec team. "We have customers with libraries of H.264 content they wanted to publish to Silverlight, but didn't want to reencode to VC-1."

Waggoner notes that, like Flash, "Silverlight's strengths go far beyond media playback", setting up a battle for interactive video deployment with Adobe’s flagship delivery platform.

Digital Rapids
Elsewhere in the H.264 world, Digital Rapids announced real-time, high definition encoding capabilities for its studio AVC Encoder software, which supports H.264 encoding, transcoding and streaming in high definition formats including 720p, 1080p and 1080i. Digital Rapids joins companies like Inlet and HaiVision in providing real-time H.264 HD encoding.

HaiVision
HaiVision announced an agreement to combine its H.264 MAKO-HD encoding appliance with Video Furnace’s inStream Viewer, to eliminate the need for a stand-alone player or browser plug in. The two companies are gearing their partnership toward digital signage and IP applications such as telepresence and IP broadcasting, specifically in the enterprise space. HaiVision has been successful in the past at putting together encoding systems that have around 70-millisecond end-to-end latency. The company works at resolutions up to1080p resolution and data rates up to 10Mbps. Motorola
Motorola also made several announcements that use what it calls Adaptive Media Management (AMM). This framework creates, according to the company, "a cost-effective platform for the delivery of on demand services including video on demand (VOD), time-shifted television and on demand advertising".

More specifically, Motorola announced a media blade called the ODM2000 to improve the its B1 video server. The ODM2000 uses both both DRAM and flash memory for a flexible caching scenario. Since the B-1 server uses AMM to manage content, the use of DRAM, flash memory and local/remote storage is designed to lower total operating costs.

In addition, Motorola also announced an update to its on-demand software system. The company’s release 4.0 (SR4.0), adds additional H.264 support and integrates with Tandberg Openstream 4.0; the new software also adds DVD-like chaptering functionality for H.264 VOD and a playlist function that enable targeted ads for on-demand content.

P2P Next Consortium
Finally, a European Union-funded project called "P2P Next Consortium" is showing off a set-top box that is aimed at using Peer-to-Peer for delivery of Internet Protocol Television, which has been created at the NextshareTV and has been developed at the Pioneer Digital Design Centre in London.

Johan Pouwelse , scientific director for P2P Next Consortium, noted that the new player, partially funded by Pioneer, is powered by P2P Next’s SwarmPlayer. The player is based on work originally done at Delft University of Technology.

"The current infrastructure of the internet is not suited to simultaneous transmission of live events to millions of people (i.e. broadcasting)," according to the Consortium’s website, noting that P2P is being explored since "most IP routers of the Internet cannot support multicasting and there seems to be no financial incentive for the ISPs to introduce multicasting."

The consortium also notes that, since content is "moving from a collective and passive approach to personal active behavior, at home and in mobile situations outside the home" that P2P delivery is needed across multiple delivery platforms, not just the Internet.

IBC continues at the RAI Congress Center in Amsterdam until September 16.