LOS ANGELES, Sept. 29, 1999 — Remember the first time you saw the scene in
“2001: A Space Odyssey”
where Dr. Heywood Floyd calls his daughter from an orbiting space station using a public video telephone? Remember how
it seemed? Long-distance video communication is hardly the novel concept today that it was when Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick presented it to us three decades ago, but video telephony and a host of other applications that rely on large amounts of streaming data have yet to appear in our homes and offices. The reason is not that the technology is beyond us, but that the necessary elements for delivering high-speed, high-bandwidth services and content are not yet in place — not quite.
Don’t hold your breath for a colony on the moon or evidence of intelligent alien life by 2001, but you can expect to see the beginnings of affordable, accessible broadband telecommunications by then. Broadband essentially removes throughput barriers and, as a result, opens up an array of possibilities for new services, marketing and entertainment. Consumers will be able to watch movies on demand, take part in surveys and order merchandise as part of the TV programs they’re watching, and use non-PC devices to access remotely stored applications or content instantly. And that video-phone service may become as common as call waiting.
Microsoft Corp., which for several years has been forging industry alliances, developing Windows Media Technologies for streaming media and making investments in the high-bandwidth arena, today announced a collaborative effort to bring broadband capabilities and services to the market more quickly. In a keynote speech today at the Digital Hollywood conference in Los Angeles, Anthony Bay, general manager of the Streaming Media Division at Microsoft, launched the Windows Media Broadband Jumpstart initiative, Microsoft’s end-to-end strategy for jumpstarting broadband business models and overcoming the barriers to making broadband services a reality.
“Today’s explosion of digital audio, driven particularly by the music industry, gives us a peek at consumers’ enthusiasm for the benefits that a high-bandwidth Internet can offer,”
“But before broadband services can come into their own, we have to overcome several hurdles.”
A Broadband Strategy Based on Industry Alliances
Microsoft’s strategy asserts that four things need to happen before the broadband industry can take off. First, the cost of broadband access needs to drop dramatically to be within reach of most consumers. Second, the quality of streamed video, which is limited by the architecture of the Internet, needs to be improved. Third, compelling content needs to be developed that gives consumers a reason to invest in a broadband connection. Fourth, improved business models need to be created to increase revenues and lower overall costs for the broadband industry. To accomplish these goals, Microsoft is building a coalition of companies that represent all aspects of broadband telecommunications — content providers, delivery providers, cable providers and others.
“The promise of broadband connectivity will never be fully realized without a shared vision and cooperation by key industry players,”
“That’s why today’s announcement is so exciting. Our strategy is founded on partnerships that will make broadband services affordable, compelling, convenient and entertaining for consumers worldwide.”
Microsoft’s broadband strategy includes delivering content through more efficient channels
“at the edge of the Internet,”
such as through dedicated land lines or satellite broadcast to a cache provided by the access provider. The content then is delivered to the end user.
then, are the companies that deliver these transmission services, which not only increase efficiency but also lower the cost of delivery substantially. Joining Microsoft’s broadband initiative are the following edge providers, as well as Internet access providers:
Content delivery: Akamai Technologies Inc., iBEAM Broadcasting Corp., INTERVU Inc. and Sandpiper Networks
Caching vendors: InfoLibria, Inktomi Corp. and Network Appliance Inc.
Digital subscriber line (DSL) access providers: Rhythms NetConnections Inc., NorthPoint Communications, Covad Communications, Jato Communications Corp. and FirstWorld Communications
Cable access providers: RoadRunner, which services Time Warner and MediaOne, and High Speed Access Corp.
Because the edge distribution model circumvents the Internet, content is not constrained to follow standard Internet protocols. Therefore, the highest-quality streamed content is feasible for entertainment, education and advertising. Windows Media Technologies already supports near broadcast-quality video at 300 kbps and above, and CD-quality audio at 64 kbps and above.
Leading content providers have joined Microsoft’s broadband initiative. These companies will drive demand for broadband connectivity by offering customers compelling entertainment and services: Music Choice; Launch.com; RioPort.com, Tunes.com; Always Independent Films LLC; iFilm Corp.; Intertainer Inc.; BootlegTV.com; Entertainment Boulevard, Inc.; foreigntv.com; House of Blues; Digital Entertainment Network (DEN); Raveworld; Sputnik7; ValueVision; Interactive/SnapTV.com; World Wrestling Federation; Virgin Radio; www.com; KKRS.net; MSNBC.
Improved Business Models
Without viable business models and content protection, the entertainment industry and content providers have been reluctant to make premium content available via the Internet. With Windows Media Broadband Jumpstart, Microsoft’s Digital Rights Management solution has addressed security concerns, while also supporting enhanced advertising, pay-per-view and pay-per-download business models. For example, Microsoft is working with Engage Technologies, Inc., to provide streamed advertising, delivered using Engage’s profile-driven ad-serving technology, which combines the multimedia effectiveness of television advertising with pinpoint audience design unique to the Internet.
“Today’s announcement represents the biggest effort yet to bring broadband services to the market”
“And once those services are in place, the experience will knock people’s socks off.”