Q&A: Microsoft’s Digital Media Chief Looks Ahead to the Third Generation of Streaming Media

Will Poole, vice president of Microsofts Windows Digital Media Division Click for a high-resolution image.

REDMOND, Wash., Dec. 11, 2001 — In his keynote address today at Streaming Media East 2001 in New York City, Will Poole, vice president of Microsofts Windows Digital Media Division, discussed digital medias role in re-energizing the market for Web-based services. Poole defined the requirements for the third generation of streaming on the Web to include broadcast-quality experiences for end users and enhanced profitability for the entire digital-media ecosystem. Poole also previewed the next version of the Windows Media Technologies platform, codenamed “Corona,” which will lead the third generation of streaming. He demonstrated how Corona dramatically improves Web-based streaming, delivering an
“instant-on, always-on”
experience and home theater-like audio and video quality to broadband PC users.

PressPass talked with Poole about how Corona is poised to deliver third-generation streaming on the Web.

PressPass: To what extent are consumers embracing digital media?

Will Poole: Its reached mainstream adoption. The availability of top-tier entertainment content and easy-to-use software that provides a compelling consumer experience is driving the trend. Our research indicates six out of 10 U.S. households use digital media each month, including downloading or streaming audio or video. Consumers downloaded billions of digital-music files over the Internet within the past 18 months, and already have viewed tens of millions of Internet movies online this year.

PressPass: If Corona will deliver the third generation of streaming on the Web, what comprised the first and second generation?

Will Poole: Internet radio represented streamings first generation. It was limited by low connection speeds and the inefficiencies of early compression technologies. While this new content channel intrigued consumers, long waits and choppy delivery due to buffering provided a less-than-stellar experience. Advancements such as better compression technologies, improved broadband support and built-in digital-rights management drove the second generation of streaming. In the second generation, high-quality copyright-protected audio and video was distributed securely to consumers over the Web for the first time — making possible a broad range of content services, for music and now for video.

PressPass: What can consumers expect from the third generation of streaming?

Will Poole: Third-generation Web streaming will fully exploit broadband to provide a home-theater-like experience. Consumers demand the instant response and outstanding video quality that TV delivers today. The third generation needs to provide that capability. Corona will enable consumers to enjoy Fast Stream an “instant-on, always on” streaming experience for broadband users, virtually eliminating waiting caused by buffering of audio and video files. Consumers also can expect audio and video quality to reach new highs. Corona improves the efficiency of new Windows Media audio and video technology by 20 percent, delivering better sound quality and clearer full-screen video to more broadband users than ever. At the really high end, were introducing two new professional-level audio and video codecs. The Windows Media Audio Professional codec is the first technology to enable Web-based delivery of 6-channel surround sound, and the new Windows Media Video codec provides HDTV-like video quality in half the space of todays DVD files.

PressPass: What does the third generation of streaming mean for companies developing and delivering Web-based digital media services?

Will Poole: Corona provides innovations to optimize the economics of delivering streaming audio and video for companies both on the Internet and within corporate intranets. New dynamic content programming capabilities in Corona, with server-side play list support, enables real-time ad insertion. When combined with Fast Stream, Corona delivers the premier user experience for ad-driven streaming media business models. Dynamic streaming-ad insertion support also improves the effectiveness and measurability of streaming advertising to better compete with traditional media. Improved video-compression technology in Corona helps lower bandwidth costs by 20 percent. Corona offers twice the server scalability of the previous platform.

PressPass: Will Corona be flexible enough for others to build on?

Will Poole: Absolutely. Corona enables application developers to deliver exciting new products and services built on Windows Media via a new plug-in model for the player, server and encoder. A vastly improved software development kit will allow developers to easily incorporate digital media into their applications, using programming languages they already know. Corona offers more than 1,000 platform APIs and support for seven programming languages for plug-in development. It also offers unprecedented opportunities for IT professionals to flexibly adapt Windows Media Services in Windows .NET Services to a specific environment, and for developers to create new revenue opportunities by building value-added applications and services.

PressPass: When will this next-generation Windows Media platform be available?

Will Poole: The first Corona deliverable, Windows Media Services in Windows .NET Server, is available for beta testing to subscribers of the Microsoft Developer Network (MSDN) program and the TechNet Plus program. We think it is the most powerful streaming server available today. The remaining Corona technologies, including new versions of Windows Media Player, Windows Media Audio and Video codecs, Windows Media Encoder, and a new Windows Media Software Development Kit, will be available for beta testing early next year.

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