Microsoft delivers preview of its Windows Azure-hosted media services platform

Microsoft delivers preview of its Windows Azure-hosted media services platform

Summary: Microsoft is taking the wraps off the latest iteration of its Media Platform, which is now hosted on Windows Azure and includes third-party integrations, at the NAB show.


At the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show in Las Vegas on April 16, Microsoft is taking the wraps off Windows Azure Media Services, the latest iteration of its end-to-end digital media platform.

Microsoft's Media Platform already handles encoding, delivery, and playback for a variety of network-connected devices. With Windows Azure Media Services, Microsoft also is integrating select third-party solutions into Microsoft's base platform, including high-speed transfer services from Aspera; content encoding from Digital Rapids, ATEME, and Dolby; content protection from BuyDRM and Civolution; and video-on-demand streaming from Wowza Media Services. Customers of the Azure-hosted Media Services platform will have a choice as to which, if any, of these add-on components they deploy.

Microsoft is allowing interested customers to sign up for the preview of Windows Azure Media Services as of today. The preview is available for free, but charges for associated Windows Azure features like Storage, Egress, and Content Delivery Networking may apply, according to Microsoft's Web page about the updated offering.

"This is a collection of first- and third party services," said Brian Goldfarb, Director of Product Marketing for Windows Azure. "The (third party partners) can plug into our Azure engine and sell through our channels."

Goldfarb said there are about a dozen partners lined up who've been working with Microsoft's engineers to integrate directly into the core Azure and Media Services platforms.

Microsoft's media services platform is comprised of Windows Media Server, Internet Information Services (IIS), Expression Encoder, PlayReady, and Smooth Streaming (an IIS Media Services extension), which these days supports not just Silverlight, but also HTML5 and Flash, Silverlight clients. Among the connected devices supported by the Media Services platform are Xboxes, Windows Phone handsets, Windows PCs, smart TVs, set-top boxes, MacOS, iOS, and Android devices. Earlier this year, Microsoft delivered a beta of the software development kit for its Smooth Streaming client for Windows 8.

Microsoft officials also announced at NAB that the company will be working with Akamai and Deltatrae to  deliver high definition streaming video of the London 2012 Olympic Games this summer across multiple countries.

Topics: Software, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Windows


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • HTML5 and Flash on IIS Smooth Streaming

    Correct me if I'm wrong but as far as I know there's no way to do pure HTML5 video and Flash streaming with off the shelf IIS and Microsoft tools. You need extra third party plugins and/or something like Wowza. That is unless of course this is unreleased stuff or I've overlooked Win8 server features (?)
    • Of Course Not

      MS wants to push their proprietary stuff rather than open standards.
      • "Proprietary Stuff" vs "Open Standards"

        According to Microsoft's post to the Windows Azure Developer Center: "After the Media Services 1.0 RTM release, the Media Services SDK will be available on GitHub with an Apache 2.0 license, and additional languages will be supported."

    • Really?

      Define "pure HTML5 video".

      If you mean encoding to H.264 files, then yes, Microsoft Expression Encoder already does this. Most H.264 encoders ARE commercial products too, due to the license cost to pay Fraunhofer. If you are a startup company, you can get it for free through BizSpark though.

      Nobody does Flash video with in-box tools either. You need some kind of Flash-licensed product to do that.
  • Missing Destination Device

    The Web page mentions "Xbox and Windows PCs, to MacOS, iOS and Android" but not Windows Phones.


    • ScottGu included Windows Phone

      "You can use Windows Azure Media Services to deliver solutions to any device or client - including HTML5, Silverlight, Flash, Windows 8, iPads, iPhones, Android, Xbox, and Windows Phone devices"
      Chris Gomez
    • Just a content bug

      Not strange. Just a bug. I asked our web team to fix it. Thanks for calling it out!

      -Brian Goldfarb
    • Windows Phone

      Bug fixed and working on Windows Phone.
  • MS actually pushing standards on this front

    MS is pushing for MPEG-DASH on this front - arguably because Apple's HLS has such a foothold that they don't believe they could successfully win with a propriety standard, but nonetheless ...

    Previous announcements were that NBC was partnering with Google for the live webcasting (in part because of issues with the Silverlight based client during the 2008 Olympics). Will be interesting to see if the MS announcement represents a change in direction by NBC, or something ancillary to the main streaming approach.
    • Olympics were awesome

      Granted, one man's opinion is PURELY an anecdote, but I loved the streaming for the last two Olympic games... especially in Vancouver. Excellent quality, presentation and the bookmarking of key events was mostly awesome. Sucks if I was in the minority.
      Chris Gomez
  • Who is MS competing with?

    Lots of great detail but can you tell us who MS is going up against with these new offerings or is this something completely new? When I started reading this, I thought MS was going after CDN competitors, like Akamai, until I read the last sentence saying MS is partnering with Akamai. Is this aimed at customers who would otherwise use YouTube for video encoding and streaming? Or is this to compete with some product from Amazon Cloud services? Thanks.
    • Another media service to allow for better competition

      You could call this a CDN if you want. It's a cloud-hosted service for media content delivery, so I guess that qualifies it. This is better than YouTube though, since YouTube has too many mandatory permissive rights for the distributor (Google) that some customers don't like to provide. There is no content restrictions (DRM) with YouTube either, and many customers do indeed want that.
    • Rollup

      Me thinks it's an integration and rollup of third party services + MS services and infrastructure to make a turnkey solution for content owners and broadcasters. MS doesn't seem to care about including specific products/services that compete with their own internal technologies as long as all bases are covered (i.e. Akamai vs Azure CDN, Digital Rapids vs Expression, Wowza vs IIS, etc.)

      As for Amazon, they have quietly made some great progress on the streaming CDN side so you can literally get up and running in a few minutes with no commit but they lack the end to end workflow (for now). They also just hired a bunch of really smart video guys recently.
      • MS is partnering with Akamai for their CDN...!

        Amazon CDN is not, and Akamai is way far better than others. One another payas you go provide for Akamai is Rackspace Files