All 2 entries tagged Wowza

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February 06, 2008

Please Adobe, drop ASAO

We’re currently developing solutions that enable people to record video and audio using Flash Player and a webcam. As far as it goes this provides a great way to allow end-users to record without complication, and the technology works very well. However, Adobe’s continued use of the closed Nellymoser ASAO audio codec for streaming from the Flash Player to the server is extremely limiting. Despite pressure from the development community and the obvious benefits of switching to MP3 it has continued to use ASAO.

Flash Player, Flash Media Server 3, Wowza/Red5 (soon) have the capability to stream H.264 video and AAC audio, both of which could be easily converted (and in some cases used as-is) to formats suitable for podcasting/vodcasting via a simple server transcode, but because ASAO is proprietary and closed the only viable solutions available for conversion are Nellymoser’s own CRISPA converter costing several thousand pounds (which only converts to WAV/RAW, so a further transcode would be required) or one of only two other converters I know of that are capable of extracting ASAO, neither of which are viable mainly because no-one seems to be able to say if they are actually legal to use, or are Windows-only solutions.

You can stream right now to an FMS-compatible server using On2VP6 and MP3-encoded audio but only using the Windows-only Adobe Flash Media Encoder. H.264 streaming is in the works with a coming version of FME but Adobe is likely to limit its use to FMS3, with a change in the EULA that will prohibit using it with Wowza and other 3rd-party solutions. I’m amazed how short-sighted this is on Adobe’s part, especially given the potential for using Flash as a platform for podcasting applications. There are valid reasons other than cost for using alternatives to FMS3; it is only available for RedHat or Windows, whereas Wowza and Red5 are Java-based. We have other use-cases beyond podcasting too – users being able to get their recordings into an editing package or mastering a DVD for instance. Few standalone converters can currently cope with ASAO.

I wish Adobe would just drop ASAO and use MP3 instead, but I’m not holding my breath given that we’ve just seen a major revision of FMS and the previews at MAX of Flash Player 10 (‘Astro’) suggested a concentration on text and 3D support. Opportunities are being missed here, so please Adobe, why can’t we just have MP3 instead of ASAO in the Flash Player? Is there some technical reason (e.g. encoding latency)? I know ASAO is a voice-optimised codec (and it has to be said does a great job, even at lowish bitrates) but MP3 would be almost as good and would remove the limitations completely. Or am I missing something else?


February 04, 2008

MS/Yahoo deal: Here comes Silverlight?

Writing about web page http://www.arnnet.com.au/index.php/id;898723528;fp;16;fpid;1

The offer by Microsoft to buy Yahoo for $44.6billion has created something of a stir, mainly because it’s the biggest offer of its kind (one that even MS would have to borrow money for with reserves of ‘only’ $22billion or so).

Should the deal go through, it may also have serious implications for Adobe and Flash; The MS rival technology Silverlight is currently being adopted slowly but steadily, but it’s easy to see how Microsoft taking over the second biggest internet company on the planet would present a prime opportunity to push its own platforms more aggressively.

Yahoo recently created its Yahoo Messenger application using Silverlight but currently up until recently made more use of Flash/Flex for other major features, like Yahoo Maps. Last week Yahoo released ASTRA, a set of Yahoo-developed components and libraries and in December gave a new Yahoo Flex skin to the development community, so Flex and Flash development is clearly still alive and kicking at Yahoo. It’s easy to imagine a Microsoft-owned Yahoo adopting Silverlight more extensively in future, increasing the penetration of the platform to the point where it gathers enough momentum to become as important and ubiquitous as Flash Player.

With this in mind, I was interested just now to read this interview with David Stubenvoll, the CEO of Wowza Media Systems. Warwick University recently adopted the Java-based Wowza Media Server as its solution for video and audio streaming, as an alternative to Adobe’s own Flash Media Server. As a provider of a third-party solution to an existing Adobe platform, it would be reasonable to assume Wowza is to a certain extent tied to the Adobe roadmap, but it was interesting to see David’s predictions (made in December) for Silverlight, before the bid was even announced:

Adobe has to assume that Silverlight is going to become ubiquitous…What’s the time frame for that? I’d say nine to eighteen months

That’s much sooner than I would’ve predicted, but a successful bid for Yahoo could be a significant catalyst for Silverlight. With this in mind, it’s reassuring to see that Wowza intends to support the video delivery mechanism required by Silverlight in the future, plus mobile formats;

Wowza plans to add support for Microsoft’s media delivery format to Media Pro Server sometime next year. The upstart company also will build in support for Java Platform Micro Edition, which is the most popular video format on mobile phones.

Which is reassuring, but back to my original question – would the deal accelerate Silverlight’s penetration? Almost definitely I think, although I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not, mainly because I haven’t seen Silverlight-based applications do anything significantly better than Flash – it seems to be more about allowing the vast number of .NET developers to create Rich Internet Applications without having to move to the Adobe platform. I don’t think this really affects Flash Player very much anyway; at 83-98% penetration it’s unlikely that people would adopt Silverlight OR Flash; it will simply help drive adoption of Silverlight, at which point the decision on what to use will come down to development preference and features (where different).


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