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Online Video Platform Summit Preview: Delivering Video to Mobile Devices

If you have questions about starting up with online video, try to attend the Online Video Platform Summit, taking place in Los Angeles November 2 and 3. One of the most popular panels is sure to be the Wednesday afternoon session on streaming mobile video.

It's a question that Jeff Malkin, president of Encoding.com hears "multiple times a day": How do I reach all the various mobile devices?

Online video for mobile has splintered into several formats, and Malkin doesn't see them coming together anytime soon. Years ago, Java became available for mobile phones, he says, and developers had hopes of being able to write code once and have their Java apps play anywhere. But then Sony, Nokia, and Samsung all created different types of Java, and the dream was done.

The major players have too much invested in their formats for anyone to change, says Malkin. Google made that clear, he says, when it introduced WebM, backing an entirely new format.

That leaves us with a fractured mobile landscape, and reaching all the popular devices—from Apple, Google, Microsoft, and RIM—is a complex challenge.

"Initially, everyone focuses on Apple," Malkin says. The iOS devices are high-profile, but the requirements for segmenting and adaptive bit rate streaming are far different from what people streaming Flash video are used to. Publishers could have hundreds or thousands of files for every video, he says, since videos have to be chunked into 10 second segments, with four bitrates for each segment (the lowest being an audio-only file with still images).

"And that's just one of the mobile formats," Malkin says.

Other challenges include knowing the device requirements for many different devices; formatting, encoding, and optimizing your files; then making sure each viewer gets the right file.

"It's a question we get every single day: Jeff, can you take our video and encode it for all mobile formats and HTML5 browsers?"

Currently, Encoding.com offers a la carte options that lets publishers choose which devices they'd like to encode for. He hints that the company may soon do more—and that there might be an announcement at the Online Video Platform Summit.

Before you begin streaming to mobile devices, there are a few questions you'll need to answer: "Are you targeting folks that have iPhones or folks that have BlackBerries, or both?" Malkin asks. How will you be monetizing the video? And do you want to distribute an app or stream to the mobile Web?

"I think a lot of people underestimate how complicated it is to transmit video to these ever-changing formats," says Malkin.

If this is where you're at, come to the Online Video Platform Summit panel and get some answers. While there might not be one simple answer to your problems, says Malkin, at least you'll be given a very specific roadmap.

Read more about the Online Video Platform Summit.

Troy Dreier's article first appeared on OnlineVideo.net

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