An Education in Streaming: Educause 2005

As streaming moves toward ubiquity, several key markets are emerging. One of those markets, education, is a key vertical for a select group of rich media recording hardware companies, including Sonic Foundry, Anystream, and Accordent. All three attended last week’s Educause 2005 convention in Orlando, and key personnel from each shared their perspective on streaming in the education market.

"Our focus has shifted from general purpose shows toward more shows that define a particular market niche," says Kristin Zurovitch, Product Manager for Sonic Foundry. "With many higher education customers, Educause is a key show. Not only does the show provide an opportunity to meet with educational IT professionals from higher education institutions and school districts from around the US, but also to interact with ongoing and potential partners whose products are complementary to our Mediasite product line."

Sonic Foundry showed several examples of partner integration at their booth, one of which was tighter integration with Blackboard, a feature that will be available in Q1 2006. Zurovitch demonstrated that Mediasite recording sessions could be scheduled from within Blackboard; upon completion of the recording, the system automatically uploads content and populates the links within Blackboard.

"Professors don't need to know how to operate the scheduling and publishing portions of our system," said Zurovitch. "Since they're already familiar with Blackboard, we've made the presentation scheduling and publishing workflow more Blackboard-centric, eliminating the need to learn another scheduling or publishing application."

Sonic Foundry also won a spot in Dell’s coveted "Classroom of the Future" booth.

Anystream's Apreso team was at the show in force, demonstrating their unique approach to screen capture. Geoff Allen, Chairman of Anystream, noted that, unlike other rich media capture devices which only capture the presenter's computer output at a few frames per second, Apreso captures both the presenter and his computer's screen at up to 30 frame per secondThis full-motion screen capture is achieved by using Anystream’s own Flash-based codec, allowing students to view the presenter writing out equations or formulas in real-time.

"We focus solely on the education market with Apreso Classroom, allowing us to meet the unique feature set and scalability demands of a campus environment," says Allen, who went on to note that scalability is inherent in Apreso, since it is based on the same technology that Anystream's Agility products use. He also mentioned that the addition of multiple codecs, including advanced formats such as H.264, is a competitive advantage, as "any codec could be added quickly, since these codecs already exist in our Agility products."

Jennifer Kirkpatrick, Anystream’s Eastern Regional Sales Manager for Educational products, has attended Educause for many years. She noted that Apreso’s education-only market approach has led Anystream to create tools for students who are constantly on the go. Kirkpatrick demonstrated a podcast on an iPod nano, where an MP3 file and still images are downloaded to the ipod, complete with chapter points. While the nano’s screen is small, Kirkpatrick noted that the podcast also works on iPods with larger color screens, including the recent 5GB iPod and older iPod Photo, and that the ability to readily access to lectures outweighed the small size.

Accordent took the opportunity to showcase the Accordent Capture Station, a product somewhat similar to Sonic Foundry's Mediasite recorder. According to Michael Newman, CEO of Accordent, the company's modular approach to its software-only products inspired the Accordent Capture Station, its first hardware product.

"ACS's feature set is robust enough to compete with similar products at less than 60% of their list price," said Newman. "ACS can be used as a standalone capture device, or as a module with our software-based server products. As a result, ACS meets a need for a lower-priced rich media capture station and has sold better than we expected in its first seven months on the market."

Real's joint presence at the show, alongside Accordent, showcased Helix’s ability to delivery Windows Media and other non-Real codecs from a variety of operating systems.

"Real views the education market as a critical vertical," said Janinne Brunyee, Real’s senior director of solutions marketing. "Feedback at the show indicates that Helix has strengthened our presence in the education market, as it appeals to educational IT users who have an interest in future-proofing their streaming investments and are attracted to Helix’s codec-agnostic approach."

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