Masses won't soon stream to PCs to watch TV
July 29, 1998
by Patrick Thibodeau
(IDG) -- Streaming media makes it possible for a PC to function like a television. But don't expect the same image quality.
A streamed image — especially one viewed at slower modem speeds over the Internet — is far from television-like.
The compressed image received by a 28.8K bit/sec. modem, for instance, typically arrives at a jerky four to five frames per second vs. television's 30 frames per second. And the credit-card-size image that appears on the PC is no fun to look at.
"I'm excited about the potential of the technology, but right now video is pretty brutal," says David Card, an analyst at Jupiter Communications, Inc. in New York.
It's a different picture on corporate networks. Wider networks allow larger streams with subsequent improvement in quality.
But the improvements in clarity and sound of images sent over a corporate network can be offset by bandwidth requirements. Streaming media needs a lot of bandwidth.
For example, if 100 users are watching full-screen video at a 300K bit/sec. stream rate, or about 10 to 12 frames per second, they are using a total of 30M bytes of bandwidth.
A large company could easily swamp its networks if thousands of users sign on to hear a CEO's pep talk. "You can't risk everybody getting on," says Joan-Carol Brigham, an analyst at International Data Corp. in Framingham, Mass. "You've got to control [use of the network], or you will end up losing control."
Despite that issue, analysts say a strong business case can be made for using streaming sound and images, especially for training.
"If you're talking about training videos [for] a highly dispersed sales force... then, yes, it's absolutely worth the trouble," says Seema Williams, an analyst at Forrester Research, Inc. in Cambridge, Mass. "It means you're trading off bandwidth for an airplane ticket to some training facility."
Video files and sound files can come in a variety of formats, and the trend among vendors is to support as many formats as possible.
Leading streaming technology vendors include Real Networks, Inc. in Seattle, which set a de facto standard on audio streaming with its RealAudio and also makes RealVideo. Microsoft Corp.'s NetShow streaming technology also is widely used, and Microsoft has a stake in Real Networks. Apple Computer, Inc.'s QuickTime is a front-runner, too.
Q & A
Peter Yorke, senior Web technologist at Seattle-based aircraft manufacturer, The Boeing Co., talks about the company's use of streaming video. More than 160,000 employees worldwide use the tool via the company's intranet.
How are you using streaming technology at Boeing?
What are the pitfalls you have to plan for when deploying streaming
How have users adapted to the technology? Are they happy with the
quality of streamed video, or are some turned off by it?
If you offer video-on-demand, you run the risk of overloading your
network if a lot of users begin streaming simultaneously. Was that an
What is the chief business value of streaming technology?
This technology short-circuits that entire process. You see the person; you sense the genuineness of the speaker.
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