Other enhancements include new "smart" jukebox features for managing large digital media collections, and Fast Streaming technology designed to enable Web sites and subscription services to offer their customers the ability to surf their streaming music, films, and other content with the same ease they surf channels on television. In addition, compression innovations in Windows Media Audio and Video 9 Series can reduce bandwidth costs by 20 percent for audio and as much as 50 percent for video, according to Microsoft. Improved server scalability with Windows Media Services 9 Series in Windows .NET Server doubles the streaming capacity of existing server hardware. As a platform for enterprise use, Windows Media 9 Series scales up to reduce streaming costs and scales out to reach employees enterprise-wide. This makes it easier and more economical, Microsoft claims, for companies to use digital media in corporate communications and training.
Also included in the September 4 announcement was the Windows Media 9 Series Software Development Kit (SDK), which enables third parties to incorporate Windows Media 9 into applications and services. The beta version of the entire Windows Media 9 Series platform, including new versions of Windows Media Player 9 Series, Windows Media Encoder, and Windows Media 9 Series SDK is now available for public download at www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/ download/default.asp.
Software Developers and Others Rush to Announce Windows Media 9 Support
Hot on the heels of Gates' Windows Media 9 news came a flood of related announcements, software developers spanning the media map declaring Windows Media 9 support now incorporated into their products, as well as partnerships at various levels.
In both the support and partnership camps is Roxio, Inc. (www.roxio.com), provider of industry-leading CD recording applications, which announced CD recording capability for versions of Microsoft's new Windows Media Player 9 Series for Windows 2000, Windows ME, and Windows 98SE. Using Roxio's technology included with the player, consumers will be able to record authorized digital music content onto CDs. The Roxio-branded CD recording applet will also display a link to Roxio's Web site, allowing consumers to upgrade to Roxio's full-featured CD recording software, Easy CD Creator 5 Platinum, and a host of other products and services that enable consumers to do more with their data, photos, videos, and music.
Winnov L.P (www.winnov.com), a leader in high-performance video capture solutions, has demonstrated Windows Media 9 support in its whole XstreamEngine product line of encoding systems. The announcement coincided with the release of Winnov's latest capture card, the Videum 4400, a four-channel audio and video streaming and capture solution specifically engineered for video surveillance solutions, which is also compatible with Windows Media 9 Series.
Surround Sound pioneer SRS Labs (www.srslabs.com) also chimed in, announcing that its technology and marketing alliance with Microsoft continues with today's beta release of the new Windows Media 9 Series from Microsoft. The SRS WOW stereo enhancement technology, which has been included in all Windows Media Players since the July 2000 release of Windows Media Player 7, continues to be embraced by Microsoft as their stereo enhancement solution for the new Windows Media Player 9 Series. SRS Labs also announced that its multichannel audio technologies, Circle Surround (CS) and TruSurround XT, are available to Windows Media Player 9 Series users as software plug-ins. These plug-ins will be released by SRSWOWcast Technologies, a subsidiary of SRS Labs.
Avid Technology (www.avid.com) announced plans to support Windows Media 9 Series in the next release of the Avid|DS family of products. This will allow customers to publish content to hundreds of millions of Windows Media Players in use worldwide, as well as open endless other distribution opportunities for media streaming, including home theater-quality entertainment and corporate communications/training. The next release of Avid|DS HD, scheduled to be available in Q4 2002, will include support for Windows Media Audio and Video 9, enabling customers to publish finished projects in this popular format with a single click.
VitalStream (www.vitalstream.com), a digital broadcast company located in Irvine, California, announced that they have built the next generation of their digital broadcasting solution, MediaConsole Pro, to support the Windows Media 9 Series. VitalStream's new MediaConsole Pro technology provides an extensive set of new features that enable enterprise customers to easily broadcast their digital media. In addition to support for Windows Media 9, MediaConsole Pro features integration services, improved real-time reporting, enhanced stream security and improved scalability through a distributed architecture with intelligent traffic routing.
Accom (www.accom.com), a leader in broadcast and professional video products, rounded out the first wave of Windows Media 9-related announcements by declaring support for the Media 9 Series technology on its new uncompressed multidefinition Digital Disk Recorder (DDR), WSD/HDX. The combination of WSD/HDX and Windows Media Encoder 9 Series creates a turnkey solution that allows users to ingest and encode high-definition content for streaming within one system. This solution provides the post-production community with streamlined workflow and the efficient encoding capabilities.
Meanwhile controversy bubbled over the relative merits of RealNetworks' latest update to its popular RealVideo codec and video delivery platform vis-à-vis the new Microsoft release. In early October, RealNetworks reported that in "third-party" testing by KeyLabs, consumers voiced a preference for RealVideo 9 over Windows Media 9 by a ratio of 4:1, based on a comparison of motion smoothness and image sharpness.
The debut of RealVideo 9 also brought with it a spate of announcements of complementary tools featuring support for Real's new codec, including AnyStream's Agility 3, Accordent's PresenterOne and PresenterPro, Canopus' Procoder 1.2, Discreet's cleaner 5.1.2 and streaming studio, Leitch's dpsVelocity, Matrox' RT.X100, Pinnacle's StreamFactory v2.5, SoftTV's Presentation Maker, softTV.Presenter, Sonic Foundry's Vegas Video 3.0c and SoundForge 6.0c, and Telestream's Flip Factory v 3.0.
-Stephen F. Nathans