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TECH TALK: TechnoWonders of the Modern World: TechnoWonder 7: Streaming

December 30th, 2000 · No Comments

Streaming as a TechnoWonder is perhaps a surprise selection. Streaming enables audio and video to be broadcast on the Net such that the end user does not have to wait for the entire file to be downloaded; instead it provides for a steady flow of information. Of the many technologies which are disruptive, Streaming is perhaps one.

What Streaming does is to convert the Web from a text and graphics one to a rich, multimedia wonder – by making audio and video available to everyone across the world. We experience the world through sight and hearing – why then should our web world be any different. Taken with the developments in optics, Streaming has the potential to make the web come alive to the mass market, constrained by literacy and language.

Many of the enabling developments that have and will continue to make Streaming popular on the Net are falling in place: media streaming software, broadband distribution, faster processors, caching companies, last-mile technologies like cable and DSL, data centres, and multimedia content.

The biggest users of Streaming technologies will be corporates. According to the Red Herring, “corporate Webcasts that facilitate employer-to-employee communication and investor relations are going to drive the streaming media industry out of its infancy and into maturity.”

For example, Microsoft has successfully used Webcasts to keep its employees up-to-date on the company’s well-publicised court battle with the Department of Justice.

In India, some of the innovative uses of Streaming would be: online education, to provide interactive teaching in corporates and rural areas; broadcasting, to allow users to create their customised TV channels independent of geography; and digital radio, to provide music on demand. There will also be demand for video email to link the people who have emigrated from villages to cities with their families. As broadband connectivity improves, Streaming will bridge the gab between the digital haves and have-nots.

The Streaming revolution has just begun. Says Rob Glaser of RealNetworks of the future:

In five years, is it possible the quality experience will be equivalent to television? That’s a very high bar, but I think we can get damn close. That we’ve gone from zero users to 160 million unique users is remarkable based on the fact that people starting out have no frame of reference. Today we have frames of reference — DVD for video quality and CD for audio quality. We’re not there yet. It will depend on bandwidth. Consumers probably need 200 to 300 kilobits per second to have a good experience.

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