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

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.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

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.

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