Monday, November 28, 2011

The Laws Of Gravity Do Not Apply...

When the AT&T and T-Mobile USA merger was announced back in March 2011, the reaction was different between two rivals: Dan Hesse, CEO of Sprint, declared it would be bad for competition, while the CEO of Verizon Wireless, Lowell McAdams, said it was inevitable.

McAdams went so far as to say, at an analyst meeting in September, that it would happen just like a particular force of nature always occurs. He spoke of it in the past tense, according to Boy Genius Report, as if it had already occurred:

“I have taken the position that the AT&T merger with T-Mobile was kind of like gravity. It had to occur."

Apparently the rules of gravity no longer apply, as AT&T last week withdrew its application to the FCC to merge with T-Mobile USA.

Is it a dead matter? Not yet. See this article on the nature of the issues facing AT&T.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Why are fMP4 and MPEG-DASH so important?

Quote from a white paper Transitions just completed on fragmented MP4 (fMP4) and MPEG-DASH:

Proponents say that the Common File Format (CFF) and Common Encryption (CENC) scheme will represent two important steps toward large-scale online video distribution via adaptive delivery of fragmented elementary streams.

Since CFF can also be used outside of the bounds of UltraViolet, significant interoperability may also exist between UltraViolet disc-based playback and online video platforms, in much the same way that the DVD Forum’s published specifications for DVD playback guaranteed interoperability between DVD players. It’s not out of bounds to think of CFF as the DVD standard for the web.

To get a better understanding of the power of fragmented MP4, first look at the sidebar in the white paper on "combinatorial complexity" for which Netflix contributed a real-world example. Even without CFF and CENC, Netflix is proving the case that fMP4 scales much better than the HLS approach (with a far lower asset management impact).

The white paper has been several months in the making, starting first as separate concepts by two key companies in the streaming space: Adobe Systems and Microsoft Corporation. Each has their proprietary solutions, but both are committed to seeing fragmented MP4 (fMP4) offer a potentially viable alternative to legacy streaming solutions.

After several meetings, both companies chose to jointly work with Transitions to create a white paper noting the benefits of fMP4 and, to a slightly lesser extent, the potential benefits of MPEG-DASH (a proposed standardization of dynamic streaming over HTTP that I mentioned in a prior blog post).

Special thanks to Microsoft and Adobe for providing financial resources and access to subject-matter experts, who spent time expanding on key concepts and the ever-changing nature of fragmented MP4 and the MPEG-DASH ratification process.

The full white paper can be found here.

[Addition: Adobe and Microsoft have both published blog posts, outlining their support for fMP4 and mentioning reasons for working together: Adobe's Kevin Towes blog post  Microsoft's Chris Knowlton blog post]

Friday, November 11, 2011

Flashless for Mobile? Not Exactly

There's quite a bit of confusion about the impact of Adobe's decision (or what exactly the decision was) in regards to Flash Player of Mobile. Rightfully so, as the company didn't spell out its intent to its users at the same time it pushed out news to analysts during the 9 November analyst day briefing.

Besides the article titled "Into (not so) thin AIR" (self-plug) there are two Adobe blog posts that may help explain where the company is going...or at least what it plans to still support:

Pritham Shetty's "Adobe Flash for Premium Video" blog post spells out what's in and what's out.

Mike Chambers's blog post, "Clarifications on Flash Player for Mobile Browsers, the Flash Platform and the Future of Flash" does a good job explaining the "why" of unsustainable growth in complexity Adobe faced in the wild-west atmosphere surrounding Android forking.

We conjectured, in the "thin AIR" article posted on, that Android forking complexities could cause Adobe's costs to run rampant. It was helpful to get confirmation a few hours later, when Mike posted his Clarifications blog post, that Adobe had indeed seen this Great Wall of Android that it had to scale, and chosen a wiser path.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

DASH of this, DASH of that...

It's apparent that MPEG-DASH is getting traction—or at least attention—if attendance at the 2011 StreamingMedia West show's panel on MPEG-DASH is any indicator.

It wasn't just standing-room, as alluded to in the article, but was sitting-room only. It's been quite some time since I've seen this level of interest in a topic.

A few notes that didn't make it into the article:

MPEG-DASH will never define a codec, but with DASH-264 there's a move to use an H.264 codec in an MP4 container with a common file format (CFF) and common encryption (CENC).... There's also a possibility of adding DASH-264 into the HTML5 standard, since W3C requires a codec to be considered in HTML5 but MPEG-DASH itself is codec agnostic.

Interesting note about who has been participating and who has not:

Apple has been participating in MPEG-DASH from the beginning; they have contributed actively. We've not seen Google participating in DASH, but our codec agnostic approach means that WebM could be used within DASH (we can already do with profiles around M2TS).

What about royalties? An audience member's question got this reply:

From a licensing standpoint, there is a requirement to notify ISO of their intent to license; Qualcomm and Cisco have announced they'll offer royalty-free since HTTP adaptive streaming has been done for a number of years but to get to a standard we need to see a path forward to royalty-free licensing.