Microsoft lifts veil on Corona media platform
Ooh, you tease
Doing the dance of the seven veils with its technology as usual, Microsoft Corp released a few more details of its "Corona" streaming media platform yesterday, saying the public beta of the software will be launched in Los Angeles on September 4.
And, in an announcement that required no drum-roll, the company revealed Corona's official name - Windows Media 9. The suite will consist of new versions of the Windows Media Player, streaming server, better audio and video codecs, encoder and software development kit. An end-of-year shipping date is expected.
Microsoft has been hyping Corona as the biggest streaming leap to date since the platform was first announced last December. WM9 promises to virtually eliminate buffering when users first launch streams, and to help cut out the jitter and blocking caused by latency by fully exploiting a user's bandwidth.
In regular video or audio streams, a file encoded at 100Kbps, say, will be delivered at that speed, even if the available bandwidth is much greater, which causes network congestion to have a noticeable effect on the quality. There will be buffering for the first few seconds as the start of the stream is downloaded.
By using client-side caching and by eliminating handshake information, Microsoft hopes to eliminate these two problems. An additional feature for content providers is playlists, which allows companies to maintain a sequence of streams to be delivered at the server side, allowing broadcast-like segues between shows and commercials.
Microsoft also claims WM9's server, actually Windows Media Services for Windows .NET Server, will be twice as scalable as previous versions. In a recent test at MSNBC (the cable TV station joint-owned by Microsoft and NBC), a WM9 server farm running at 23% capacity served the same number of streams as a same-sized Windows 2000 streaming server farm running at nearly full capacity, Microsoft said.