Boeing, Attack from All Angles

Currently, Boeing has a three-pronged approach to deploying streaming video: using the public Internet, its company intranet, and an extranet accessible by vendors and customers with special credentials. The target audience for these videos includes suppliers, employees, customers, and the public at large (the public can view product demonstrations at www.boeing.com/ companyoffices/gallery/streamingmedia/

Virtually all of the video accessible through the Internet demonstrates Boeing products, including Sea Launch, the International Space Station, the Joint Strike Fighter, and other military and commercial aircraft. Video is encoded in Real format at 28.8Kbps, 56Kbps and 200Kbps, although some older Windows and QuickTime video files are also available for download.

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The primary organ for regular corporate communications over the Boeing intranet is Boeing News Now — a web-based news site that grew out of and is designed to complement the Boeing print newspaper. Once a weekly, the hard-copy newspaper is now published bi-weekly; it's estimated that by going from weekly to bi-weekly, Boeing saves up to $1 million per year in print and distribution costs alone. With twice-daily updates, the Web-based News offers employees more timely information in addition to streaming audio and video stories. Video on the corporate intranet is streamed in Real Media at the single rate of 200Kbps.

Customers and vendors with access to the Boeing Partners Network — Boeing's extranet — receive passwords allowing them access to specific servers on the network. Because sales and marketing groups want to ensure that customers see only the highest quality video, and that the video will play on any Windows box, video on the extranet is typically encoded as MPEG-1 for download, not streaming. Charlie Mullen, producer for Boeing's Digital Design Group, says, "If you're doing a presentation in Shanghai and you've got to deliver a video clip, you're going to deliver that clip as an MPEG file, rather than something that's set up for a low-bandwidth environment. For the most part, these are smaller clips, 30 seconds to a minute. If you're in a major city, where our sales offices tend to be, you're going to be able to download that without too much problem." Mullen adds that some streaming is used simply to let people preview longer videos. "We like streaming, but we'd definitely like to see a lot better quality," he says.

Although Boeing's use of corporate streaming has grown more sophisticated over the past five years, the company has moved cautiously in developing new streaming applications. Those that have been adopted — for example, in the areas of corporate training and investor relations — have been successful. But the age-old concerns about network congestion have kept the brakes on more extensive deployment. Harvey Hailer, manager of electronic media for Boeing's Learning, Education and Development Group, notes, "In an engineering manufacturing company like Boeing, it's of prime importance to get the engineering data across the network. Training opportunities with streaming are a lower priority."

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