Talking about Media and Silverlight 2.0

I’ve written here about Silverlight 1.0’s capabilities to support rich media delivery with video and audio delivery and with ScottGu’s update on Silverlight 2.0, I figured it’s time for an update on all the goodness that is happening

When we think about Silverlight and media, we really think about content enablement – how to deliver video, audio, animation, and interactivity in a cost-effective way from creation to distribution to experience.  The teams are continuing to innovate on all three of these fronts:


Silverlight Content Creation with Expression

image Just a few months ago, we released Expression Encoder 1.0, a easy to use yet powerful tool for building interactive Silverlight media content including live events and on-demand video. Encoder solves a particularly frustrating problem of how to convert files such as QT or AVI into VC-1 for delivery in Silverlight.  Live streaming supports multiple camera angles, direct connect from Silverlight and Windows Media Player clients for PC, Mac, and Mobile, and easily supports broadcasting from Windows Media Services, a feature of Windows Server.  By providing a series of templates that can be easily modified with Expression Blend, you can host your videos on any web server (Windows, Linux, Mac whatever) with simplicity. In recent months, the Expression team released a Publishing plug-in to upload video up to HD quality  with Silverlight Streaming, a freely available service by Windows Live.  There’s even a plug-in for Windows Live Writer that makes it easy to publish Silverlight video in your blog.  More on that later. 

If you’re interested to get started with Expression Encoder, download the free trial  and check out the How-to videos here.  And pay attention to Mix for more to come 😉


Silverlight Content Distribution with Windows Server 2008

Today, content providers have a rapidly growing number of options for delivering media on the Web.  In particular, delivering on-demand video has never been easier. The majority of sites today choose to host video on web servers, where the average user watches under half a minute of video, but downloads nearly five minutes of content.  Video consumption is exploding online and of you ascribe to The Big Internet Slowdown Deloitte Consulting and Nemertes Consulting have predicted, we’re in for a big slowdown by 2010.  "Users will experience a slow, subtle degradation, so it’s back to the bad old days of dial-up," says Nemertes President Johna Till Johnson. "The cool stuff that you’ll want to do will be such a pain in the rear that you won’t do it."

Just as we’re hearing about the importance of responsible energy use, content providers are increasingly being encouraged to do the same for Internet bandwidth.  By only delivering the data consumed by the user by using the streaming server features in Windows Media Services for Live and on-demand content and/or the upcoming IIS7 Media Pack, content providers can realize lower costs of delivery of a wide range of content types and be a more responsible, "Netizen".  One of the complaints we’ve heard about Windows Media Services in the past is the complexity of having to manage a separate service in a separate console for media, separate from the web server and application farm.  Windows Media Services 2008 addresses this with simplified admin, and unparalleled scalability.  In tests, WMS 2008 is twice as scalable as the release in Windows Server 2003 on the same hardware which means fewer servers, and higher performance.  Unlike some other solutions, Windows Media Services is a fully 64-bit enabled service, not a 32-bit solution running atop the platform.  There are a number of additional features here, which Harry Mower goes into on his blog here

But what if you want to  host your on-demand media content on your Web server or are supporting multiple file types from different vendors?  This is where the IIS7 Media Pack comes in.  This new add-on delivers intelligent bit-rate throttling for a wide range of file types – including Windows Media, QuickTime, Real, and even Flash video content.  What’s more, it’s configurable so that it can be used for application downloads as well.  By throttling content downloads, you ensure a more efficient and scalable delivery model.  Windows Server 2008 also supports clustering, enhanced cache/proxy support and much more that customers have come to expect in an industrial-strength content delivery platform.

HD video puts increasing strain on infrastructure, which is why we’re working closely with big content delivery networks and startups alike who are looking for ways to address, and ensuring that Silverlight is a viable solution for them.  Download WS2008 and the IIS7 Media Pack Bit-rate Module today.

It’s not just about stunning marketing sites and video on the Web – enterprise customers have recognized the proven reliability and scalability of Windows Media streaming and IIS for LOB applications, corporate communications, or e-learning solutions using a trusted solution broadly used for years- it’s just getting better.  Experience matters as Forrester’s recent RIA report notes- even in the enterprise.  It’s our intent to seamlessly integrate Silverlight into existing installations and make it simple and scalable for others.

Windows Server 2008 will be released on February 27 2008, but you don’t have to wait to start taking advantage of the platform already in use in some of the biggest sites on the web- you’ll hear more about this come launch.


Free Content Distribution with Silverlight Streaming

If you aren’t interested in setting up your own server, you can host on the MS network via Silverlight Streaming by Windows Live.  Currently available in test form, you can host up to 4GB of Silverlight applications on Microsoft’s geo-distributed network. Primarily created as a simple way to ho
st video-based applications for developers, Silverlight Streaming has been adopted by Solution Providers and even ISVs such as Roxio for simple video publishing.  To fully prove out the network, we’ve been hosting applications including the Halo3 Interactive Manual.  You can expect even more great things from the Silverlight Streaming team in the new year.


Content Playback in Silverlight

image Silverlight 1.0 today offers great media delivery options, addressing cross-platform support with Mac and Windows (Linux support coming), and cross-browser support for IE, Firefox, and Safari. Thanks to the efficiencies offered by the SMPTE-standardized VC-1 video format, Silverlight can deliver HD-quality without hardware acceleration as can be see here.  (It’s important to note that two formats were selected for next-generation video experiences in Blu-Ray and HD-DVD – VC-1 and H.264. Today over 90% of all HD-DVD titles are presented in VC-1). No pre-requisite version of Windows Media Player or any other player is required with Silverlight, just a small browser plug-in.  What’s more, with Silverlight, your HD content can play off of any web server or take advantage of the Windows Server efficiencies covered above.

There’s a lot more happening by way of media support in Silverlight- more details to come in the following months. Scott detailed the developer-focused roadmap here. One thing I can saw we’re working on across the stack is performance – at MIX last year, folks saw what .NET could do, with a 1000x improvement in performance over script-based solutions.  The teams are thinking about performance across the stack as seen with Windows Server, and you’ll see with Silverlight 2.0