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2009: A Breakthrough Year for Online Video
A look back at the significant events of 2009, from large-scale webcasts to mobile HD and Flash to the latest initiatives from Sky and the BBC.
Mon., Jan. 4, by Tim Siglin
Learn more about the companies mentioned in this article in the Sourcebook:
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The upcoming 2010 Streaming Media Industry Sourcebook—due out in February—devotes a number of articles to analyzing the 2009 streaming industry verticals, from education and enterprise to media & entertainment and mobile.

Without stealing the thunder of any of those articles, which are much more inclusive, here's a brief set of highlights from key events that occurred in the past year. (And there's still time to get your copy of the Sourcebook by signing up for a free subscription to Streaming Media magazine.)

January
This year started out with one of the largest live streaming events in history, which took place in the United States on 20 January as Barack Obama was sworn in as the U.S. President. The U.S. Presidential Inauguration live streams were viewed by a simultaneous number of worldwide viewers ranging from 10-12 million, with tens of millions more viewing the streams after the events.

February
The Mobile World Congress show, held each February in Barcelona, was the first major mobile event at which handset manufacturers could respond to Apple's release of the iPhone 3G in mid-2008. Samsung announced the Omnia HD, which was the first mobile handset capable of capturing 720p high-definition video, and other manufacturers also announced HD products as a way to differentiate from the iPhone, which lacks HD capture or playback.

Nokia and Adobe used MWC as a way to push expand full-featured Flash Players on mobile handsets, announcing a $10 million Open Screen Project fund as a way to jumpstart development of products using Adobe's Flash platform. With Nokia's sights set on competition from Apple and Google, the funds were geared toward developing applications that use Flash as the underlying technology.

"This is an effort to foster the creation, distribution and marketing of applications," said Anup Murarka, director of partner development and technology strategy for Adobe's Platform Business Unit, noting the fund was geared "as a vehicle for grants, it is not a VC fund."

March
At the MIX 2009 conference, Microsoft rolled out the IIS Smooth Streaming pack, allowing adaptive bitrate content to be played back from an IIS-equipped HTTP server. MIX included several sessions on streaming, including Matt Smith from Inlet discussing how he'd used Silverlight while he was at Yahoo to drive a consistent cross-platform user experience without requiring significant back-end infrastructures changes.

April
In early April, leaders from the Group of 20 (G20) countries met in London for the G20 London Summit. As a global event, a team consisting of Arqiva, Feltech, and FlyOnTheWall managed the broadcast, satellite uplink and subsequent streaming of the event. Given the limited space in and around the ExCel meeting venue, the satellite uplink was used not only for international broadcast feeds but also to send the signal to FlyOnTheWall's London location for a 350Kbps stream seen by over 200,000 viewers. The team performed the services for the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

May
While Streaming Media East 2009 kicked off in May in New York City, with Akamai CEO Paul Sagan keynoting on the HD "tipping point" that 2009 had ushered in, preparations were underway for Streaming Media Europe 2009. The first-ever Streaming Media Europe Readers' Choice Awards nominations were opened in May, and the response turned out to be quite phenomenal for companies in the UK and on the Continent. Winners can be found here.

June
Data roaming service caps were implemented in July, less than seven months after Vivian Reding, the EU Telecoms Commissioner, proposed legislation to cap what she called the "roaming rip off in Europe." Under the new rules, UK and Continental mobile users will have their text message and broadband data fees reduced when roaming abroad across Europe. Mobile data charges are capped at a cost of €1/MB, provided a user has a pre-existing data plan in place.