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Microsoft sharpens Azure media tools ahead of Olympics

Redmond goes Vegas to tempt big media

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

Microsoft has announced the "preview" of Windows Azure Media Services, a set of tools to let media companies host, stream and encode content.

Redmond used the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) 2012 conference in Las Vegas to unwrap the service package, which includes both hosting services within the Azure cloud and streaming using Microsoft Smooth Streaming, HTTP Live Streaming and Flash media formats. The system also has built-in support for the MPEG-DASH (Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP) standard.

Azure Media Services

Microsoft's Azure backbone for media

Microsoft claims that the system can be used to stream to pretty much any system, including those using HTML5, Silverlight, Flash, Windows 8, iPads, iPhones, Android, Xbox, and Windows Phone devices.

One of the first big tests for the system will be this summer's London Olympics. Akamai will be using Azure Media Services to stream the estimated 3,600 hours of content generated from endless qualification sessions in rhythmic gymnastics, men's stroke play golf and synchronized swimming to millions of eager viewers around the world.

More tools will be released this autumn and next spring, and the final service is expected to go live within a year.

"The media space is huge and unique and we have many years of investment in the media and entertainment industry," Brian Goldfarb, director of product marketing for Azure told The Register. "We've also been growing our Azure infrastructure so media companies have the capacity they need." ®

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