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CES 2012: VisualOn Previews OnStream MediaPlayer+

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LAS VEGAS—Silicon Valley startup VisualOn at CES showing off its OnStream MediaPlayer+ platform, which will be formally unveiled on January 19. The platform aims to solve the problem of a fragmented mobile and home market by playing video streamed in any format on any platform.

VisualOn was founded in 2003, bringing video optimization technology to market shortly after the H.264 codec was defined, when ARM processors were getting more powerful. Three years ago, the privately funded company found a new avenue as mobile device makers approached, looking for a solution for fragmented media playback. Today, it has contracts with 8 of the top 10 handset makers.

While the company’s previous mobile video solution was mainly for Android use (Netflix’s Android app uses it), OnStream Media Player+ will extend VisualOn functionality fully to Apple iOS, Symbian, Windows Phone, and other platforms. VisualOn is offering an app development shortcut, where developers only need to add their custom user interface, indicate the source of their video, and link to their DRM system. VisualOn does the rest, accepting video from any source and ensuring that it plays on any device. Developers will be able to save time by working with VisualOn’s standardized APIs when creating apps for different mobile and connected platforms. OnStream MediaPlayer+ works on devices with ARM11 processors and better.

VisualOn is now talking with major carriers and cable companies in the U.S. and Europe about the platform, showing how they can provide a consistent end-user experience in the home for connected device playback. Connected TV manufacturers are also showing interest: Users accessing online video content through TV browsers often find video not supported on that set. VisualOn can help connected TVs support a wider range of video.

Netflix recently began streaming in the U.K. and Ireland, notes VisualOn’s senior vice president of worldwide sales and marketing Sean Torsney, where the mobile device landscape relies on different technologies. But because Netflix uses VisualOn for streaming to Android devices, it didn’t need to change its app to stream to European handsets.

Besides offering multiplatform streaming, OnStream MediaPlayer+ can be used to offer tiers of services that deliver other visual or audio effects. Netflix, for example, is interested in using it to offer surround sound as a premium service, notes Torsney. This functionality gives content providers a way to distinguish their services from the competitions.

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