Technology Positioning Statement Report

3.1.6 Streaming Media Clients and Servers

Description: Technologies for presenting multimedia data to users at the desktop, including live and recorded video and audio feeds.

Category: 3 - Communication Technologies   Subcategory: 1 - General Purpose Communication Technologies
Old Category: none


Windows Media Player
Windows Media Player


Industry UsageSC Usage
SMIL 2.0

Performance Metrics

Ease of use; ease of learning; audio and video quality; file size; processing speed; network quality/efficiency product.

Usage and Dependencies

Industry Position: The leading industry systems for broadcasting and receiving live or recorded multimedia streams are RealNetworks RealPlayer, Apple QuickTime, and Macromedia Shockwave. Apple, Lotus/IBM, and AOL have both turned their support to the RTSP standard, initially developed by RealNetworks and Netscape jointly and now supported by Microsoft in its Windows Media Player, which comes bundled with the Internet Explorer browser.

The W3C in March 2001 released a working draft of the Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language (SMIL) specification version 2.0. Internet Explorer 5.5 supports many of the SMIL modules (Timing and Synchronization, BasicAnimation, SplineAnimation, BasicMedia, MediaClipping, and BasicContentControl). This will be the focus of synchronized multimedia standards going forward.

The Macromedia Shockwave Player performs automatic biweekly software updates from the Macromedia corporate site checking usersí machines to collect such information as Shockwave version, browser version, OS and hardware platform, URLs that users have visited, and various kinds of information about the files that users have viewed. This update method circumvents SCís automated software management and alters workstations from the SC standard image. It also affects the security of SC workstations and user activities on the Web. The auto-update feature should therefore be turned off if Shockwave is used.

Corporations are realizing that web-based streaming media costs significantly more than static graphic- and text-based content, without providing, in many cases, a clear business advantage (e.g., increased sales, reduced human support costs, etc.). An indication of this is that in Jan. 2001 Intel shut down its Media Services group. In the current declining market, Intel decided to cease further development rather than diverting management attention, capital and human resources into a market that is showing a decreased likelihood of adding significant strategic value for at least the next two years.

Usage of streaming media over the Internet for the general public is still inadequate. With 56kbps (or less) modems, streams are often broken, which ruins the experience, or the buffering time becomes very long. Streaming media applications are appropriate only on high-speed networks.

Microsoft's Windows Media Player version 6.4 works with Windows 95 systems, and an improved version (7) works with Windows 2000. Office 2000 products such as PowerPoint support full integration of streaming audio and video. For the broadcast of content, the Office Web Extensions will support only a small workgroup. If widespread covereage is required, a Windows Media Server should be used.

SC Usage: SC completed the upgrade to Office 2000 Professional in March 2001 (on the Windows 95 platform). Although some streaming media features were available with Office 97, these features were underutilized in SC. The upgrade of Office is much easier to use. We can expect to see a gradual increase in the usage of streaming audio and video, especially after the deployment of Windows 2000. Some user education is needed, and SC-65 should contribute to this.

It is recommended that adequate provisioning and network QoS (Quality of Service) mechanisms be established prior to heavy usage of streaming media.

SC Application Impacts: As noted above, streaming media services have limited applicability to business processes, although they are very useful for outreach and training. Users should consider multimedia, especially streaming audio, when appropriate, for intranet distribution.

Last Update: Valid Until:


Previous TPS Report
Intel Shows Backbone, Cuts Losses and Exits Streaming Media Services, Joel Yaffe, Giga, Feb. 26, 2001.

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