Windows Media Broadband Jumpstart Initiative
The widespread adoption of broadband technologies is key to bringing high-quality audio and video to consumers and making the Internet a true alternative to traditional entertainment mediums. Until now, widespread broadband adoption has been limited to large businesses and universities, with consumer adoption lagging because of a variety of barriers. With the Microsoft® Windows Media TM Broadband Jumpstart initiative, Microsoft Corp. has worked with industry leaders to identify key issues that must be addressed in order to make broadband ubiquitous:
Compelling new content
Improved business models
Better audio and video quality
Reduced distribution costs and better performance
Compelling New Content Drives Increased Demand
Simply having broadband connections available doesn’t guarantee consumer adoption. A major obstacle is the availability and ease of access to compelling content that takes full advantage of the higher connection rates offered by broadband technology. Microsoft’s relationships with leading content providers will help to guarantee the availability of compelling new audio and video. In addition, Microsoft is enhancing WindowsMedia.com, among the fastest-growing major audio and video guides on the Internet, to help users easily locate broadband content.
The availability of new high-quality consumer- and business-oriented content will further entice consumers to upgrade their Internet access to DSL or cable through participating DSL access providers Rhythms NetConnections Inc., NorthPoint Communications, Covad Communications, Jato Communications Corp. and FirstWorld Communications; and cable access providers RoadRunner (servicing Time Warner and Media One networks) and High Speed Access Corp. In aggregate, these providers are capable of providing broadband access to over 50 percent of U.S. households.
Improved Business Models
Without viable business models and sophisticated content protection, the entertainment industry has been reluctant to make premium content available via the Internet. The Windows Media Broadband Jumpstart initiative builds on Windows Media Technologies capabilities to address entertainment industry concerns about content security; it also supports enhanced advertising, pay-per-view and pay-per-download business models. For example, streamed advertising delivered using Engage’s profile-driven ad-serving technology combines the multimedia effectiveness of television advertising with pinpoint audience design unique to the Internet. Windows Media pay-per-view technology for streamed content is in use today by such content providers as the House of Blues and the World Wrestling Federation. Pay-per-downloads is an emerging business model that is already enjoying success, as evidenced by recent pay-per-download sales by leading artists such as Tori Amos and David Bowie using the Windows Media Audio and Windows Media Rights Manager technologies. As bandwidth increases, the opportunity to expand to larger types of media, such as downloadable high-quality CDs and video, expands as well.
Better Quality Audio and Video
Broadband technology enables more than faster delivery of existing Web pages. The increased bandwidth, combined with the industry-leading audio and video quality of Windows Media Technologies, enables near broadcast-quality video; CD-quality audio in half the size of other formats such as MP3; clear, uninterrupted audio and video; and faster access to content. In addition, the Windows Media Technologies platform is the only major platform to combine high-quality audio and video with digital rights management, offering industry-leading security features that enable easy e-commerce. For example, David Bowie’s new album, “hours…,” was offered for sale completely in digital form on the Internet two weeks before being released on CD. The album’s 11 tracks take just over an hour to download via a 56k modem, and under three minutes via a broadband (cable) connection.
Reduced Distribution Costs and Better Performance
The Windows Media Broadband Jumpstart initiative also addresses content transmission costs and network congestion, which are both barriers to broadband adoption. Currently, information transmitted over the Internet is broken up into thousands of tiny packets, each of which takes a separate path through the Internet. The packets “hop” from point to point (incurring costs along the way) until they are reassembled in sequence on the recipient’s computer. With network congestion, however, packets can be lost, and users suffer delays and quality degradation. Transmitting broadband data at rates from 10 to 50 times higher than narrowband means more costs are incurred, and more opportunities for errors come up. Windows Media Technologies is being designed in two different architectures that address these problems: content delivery networks (CDNs) and content-caching systems. CDNs use satellites and dedicated land lines with intelligent prepositioning technology to bypass the traditional Internet, moving data from content providers’ sites to a system as close as possible to a user’s Internet access provider via the most efficient route available. This approach lowers costs, improves quality and improves scalability. CDN providers supporting the Windows Media Technologies include Akamai Technologies Inc., iBEAM Broadcasting Corp., INTERVU Inc. and Sandpiper Networks. Caching system vendors create products using similar technologies to improve performance and reduce costs; they provide their products to major ISPs and corporations worldwide. Microsoft recently announced agreements with caching vendors InfoLibria, Inktomi Corp. and Network Appliance Inc. Finally, while other streaming media solutions require content providers to pay fees above a certain number of simultaneous connections, in effect taxing success, Windows Media has no per-stream fees.
Summary of Broad Industry Support
More than 35 companies have joined Microsoft in announcing their support for the Jumpstart initiative:
Content-delivery networks: Akamai Technologies Inc., iBEAM Broadcasting Corp., INTERVU Inc. and Sandpiper Networks
Caching systems: InfoLibria, Inktomi Corp. and Network Appliance Inc.
DSL access: Rhythms NetConnections Inc., NorthPoint Communications, Covad Communications, Jato Communications Corp. and FirstWorld Communications
Cable access: RoadRunner, which services Time Warner and MediaOne, and High Speed Access Corp.
Content developers and distributors: alwaysif.com, BootlegTV.com, Digital Entertainment Network Inc., Entertainment Boulevard Inc., foreignTV.com, hob.com, Intertainer, IFilm.net, KKRS.net, Launch Media, MSNBC, Music Choice, Pseudo Programs Inc., Raveworld.net, RioPort.com, Tunes.com, sputnik7.com, ValueVision Interactive/SnapTV.com, Virginmega.com, World Wrestling Federation and WWW.COM
Internet advertising services: Engage Technologies Inc.
Companies interested in participating in the Windows Media Broadband Jumpstart initiative may contact [email protected]
About Windows Media Technologies
Windows Media Technologies is the leading digital media platform that provides consumers, content providers, solution providers, software developers and corporations with unmatched audio and video quality. Windows Media Technologies 4, which includes Windows Media Player, Windows Media Services, Windows Media Tools and Windows Media Audio SDK, is available for free download at http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/. Over 40 million copies — at a rate growing by more than one every second — of the free Windows Media Player have been downloaded to date.
WindowsMedia.com (http://windowsmedia.com/), part of the MSN.com TM network of Internet services, is among the fastest-growing major audio and video guides on the Internet. WindowsMedia.com provides access to localized audio and video content users worldwide, including over 700 radio stations and major music and video events from more than 1,000 content providers.
More Information Sources
Microsoft Launches Windows Media Broadband Jumpstart Initiative To Accelerate Consumer Adoption of Broadband Technology
Microsoft’s TV Platform Makes Broadband Services a Reality for Cable Industry
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