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It's All in the Delivery: A Look at the Top Video Players of Today and Tomorrow

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—Creative design environment—To reduce cost and speed up your time to market, you will want to use a design environment that allows you to quickly transfer your design to a functional online or offline application.

—Streaming/server functionality—You want to be able to support HTTP with progressive downloads as well as real-time streaming protocol (RTSP 3GPP). This will allow you to support many devices and get through many firewalls. Adobe supports its proprietary real-time messaging protocol (RTMP), which is more similar to HTTP than RTSP.

—Ability to integrate advertising—Web 2.5 will mostly be about advertising, so you will want to use client and server technology that allows you to easily integrate with third-party ad systems from Google, Microsoft, and others. You’ll also want a mechanism that will force users to watch your ads.

—Digital rights management (DRM)—Premium content will need some sort of DRM. Many systems can use the technology from Windvine Technologies, Inc., which is being used by Microsoft to secure content streamed to Silverlight players. Windvine supports all major operating systems and media formats, including H.264, QuickTime, Real, VC-1, and Windows Media.

—Ability to track online and offline usage—Again, in an ad-dominated world, you need to be able to trace both online and offline usage.

—Mobile support—Content companies want to reach users at any time no matter where they are, so having mobile support is as important as (or even more important than) PC support.

—Support for HD content—Quality will rule the day in a Web 2.5 world. As devices become more powerful and bandwidth to the home increases, users will demand higher resolutions. Lower quality and lower resolutions won’t suffice.

—Strong ecosystem—Who your friends are will define you in Web 2.5 as much as it did in Web 1.0 and Web 2.0. Having a strong ecosystem will help you grow faster and reach a larger base of customers. Insular companies may see initial short-term growth but will experience only limited long-term growth because of an inability to scale.

The big players in this space are the usual suspects: Microsoft, Adobe, Apple, RealNetworks, DivX, and a few relative newcomers, such as Move Networks, MobiTV, and Digital Fountain. Not all of these technologies make the grade. But they do represent the technologies that are driving the streaming video industry today, and they are likely the technologies you are using to watch video on your PC, mobile phone, and even your TV. Of this list, Adobe and Microsoft seem to be squaring off in a technology battle similar to many Microsoft has taken part in over the years. I’m probably older than many of my readers, so I remember some of Microsoft’s epic industry battles that many may not recall:

—Microsoft DOS versus DRDOS—winner: Microsoft
—Microsoft Windows versus IBM OS2—winner: Microsoft
—Microsoft Excel versus Lotus 1-2-3—winner: Microsoft
—Microsoft Internet Explorer versus Netscape—winner: Microsoft
—Microsoft Word versus Word Perfect—winner: Microsoft
—Microsoft Windows NT versus Novell—winner: Microsoft
—Microsoft Windows Media versus RealNetworks—winner: Microsoft
—Microsoft SharePoint versus Lotus Notes—winner: Microsoft

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