Our clients’ expectations for their digital media audio and video experiences have moved beyond wanting basic audio and video; consumers now want a new level of audio and video to match the high-quality home theater and audio systems they have in their living rooms. This demand has increased as the audio hardware associated with PCs continues to improve; for example, new surround sound speakers are appearing on computer desktops, and Windows Media Center experiences can be easily "extended" to the living room with the Xbox 360™ video game and entertainment system.
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Windows Media technologies enable content providers to meet these expectations and to deliver:
- Great Audio Quality at Any Bit Rate. Correct codecs provide for the different audio requirements of content providers. With compression improvements across the board, full discrete 5.1 surround sound can be delivered at only 128 kilobits per second (Kbps), and 24-bit audio, Windows Media delivers a voice codec that provides mixed-mode voice and music, enabling high-quality audio for typical Internet radio content at very low bit rates. In addition, Windows Media 9 Series offers variable bit-rate codecs that optimize bit rate throughout the file to put the bits right where they’re needed, decreasing Windows Media Audio 9 and Windows Media Audio 9 Professional file sizes even further.
- Great Video Quality at Any Bit Rate. At launch, Windows Media Video 9 delivered a 15 to 50 percent improvement over Windows Media Video 8, and has provided two major backward compatible improvements since then. Today, a Windows Media Video 9 file has up to three times the compression rate of MPEG-1 and MPEG-2. This improvement, along with support for the standards-based VC-1 codec, allows content providers to deliver better-quality video over the Internet reliably and cost-effectively to more households than with other technologies. For broadband users, this means being able to experience full-screen, high-quality video streamed or downloaded from the Internet in less time than ever before.
- Great Content Authoring Tools and Services. Windows Media customers enjoy a broad ecosystem of professional tools and services for the encoding, enhancement, and publishing of video. For live events and general encoding, Windows Media Encoder is available as a powerful and freely downloadable tool for delivering live and advanced on-demand content. With the announcement of Microsoft Expression® Media, customers have a solution for the import, enhancement, and publishing of Web-optimized video with "WPF/E" and the power to handle batch encoding server-side. There are also a wide variety of third-party tools and services build on Windows Media components that enhance solutions that are targeted at enterprises and other vertical markets.
- Reduced Buffering Delays. Windows Media effectively eliminates buffering time and reduces the likelihood of an interruption in play due to network conditions, whether a user is playing a single piece of content or switching seamlessly between on-demand clips and broadcast streaming channels. Content providers have more control of this experience through their servers, so they are able to control their bandwidth costs.
- Better Playback Experience. Because Windows Media technologies take the media-rich capabilities in Windows XP and Windows Vista™ to a whole new level, users will enjoy the best playback experience for local or streamed audio and video. With new "Instant-On, Always-On" streaming support, it also delivers the best streaming experience for Windows and the Web. Content delivery to any content provider’s customer base will be unmatched through the Windows Media Player. For browser-based content, "WPF/E" will offer high resolution (vector-based) graphics and overlays such as titles, logos and effects, seamlessly integrated with the video experience.
The need for strong digital rights management (DRM) technology has increased due to one of the hottest trends on the Internet: downloading licensed—and in some cases, unlicensed—audio and video content. If left unprotected, this digital media can be easily copied and distributed. Consequently, content providers face serious challenges in protecting their rights over this digital media.
With Windows Media Rights Manager, content providers can use license registration and media file encryption to protect their digital media rights. Windows Media Rights Manager 9 introduces enhancements to digital rights management solutions.
The Windows Media DRM solution is also uniquely available to content creators, who can choose between purchasing their own DRM solution, or outsourcing DRM to a third party. Content companies get to choose and deliver their own business models.
Existing audio and video files aren’t the only material that can be sensitive and proprietary. Live event broadcasts can contain information that needs to be protected from unauthorized viewing or copying.
Secure content distribution for either live or on-demand streamed audio and/or video content is possible through the Windows Media Encoder. During a live event, content that is being captured from a device such as a digital video camera attached to a computer can be protected "on the fly." This also works for live broadcasts of pre-encoded content; an encoder can apply DRM during a real-time broadcast of a file. In either case, the content goes to precisely the audience that the content provider intended.
The Windows Media Encoder includes complete integrated support for other license server providers, allowing content authors to easily define rights and other properties for their content.
This new platform brings the user closer to the vision of playing DRM-protected content on any device, anywhere, anytime. Devices that use Windows Media Rights Manager can be used by consumers to securely transfer files from their PC or the Internet. Once the content is on the device, the device follows the license to enable the user to play the content for a given number of times or for a certain length of time—whatever business rules that the content provider of that content has established.
This feature of the series is a small and fast application that can run on any type of chip. It may be ported to any platform to enable the different devices of the digital media device network. Windows Media DRM offers content owners and consumer electronics manufacturers a low cost and efficient solution to DRM-protected devices. "WPF/E" will also support DRM as a part of the platform, starting with content protection that will meet the majority of business needs for customers in its first release.
Windows Media 9 delivers a substantially lower bit-rate at the same quality, compared to competing technologies. This means that content providers can significantly reduce costs through increased server power and lower bandwidth costs, while providing high-quality audio and video with significantly reduced bit rates and file sizes.
Windows Media Services 9 Series is one of the components that is a major factor in overall cost reduction for content providers. This is a feature of Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition, Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition, and Windows Server 2003 Datacenter Edition, as well as the upcoming Microsoft Windows Server® Code Name "Longhorn" operating system that is slated for release in 2007. Windows Media Services combines unparalleled power, security, and intelligence to break through the barriers to bringing digital media mainstream in the enterprise and on the Internet.
Windows Media Services introduces new server capabilities that help in overall cost reduction and provide revenue opportunity, including:
- Ease of Administration. With familiar Microsoft Management Console (MMC) administration and flexible HTTP administration, Windows Media Services 9 Series allows consumers to administer servers from any device with a Web browser.
- Scenario-Based Wizards and Help. User-friendly features make it easy for non-streaming experts to get started doing powerful and advanced streaming tasks.
In addition, because Windows Media Viewer 9 Professional delivers approximately three times the compression efficiency of MPEG-2, dramatic improvements can be made in video quality for download-and-play or for delivery using physical media, such as CDs or DVDs. This means that content delivery quality and efficiency greatly increase while costs essentially remain the same.
Windows Media delivers more robust advertising support and real-time server-side playlist programming functionality, which gives content providers the ability to increase their advertising revenue. Improvements include:
- No Buffering Ads. With Fast Streaming, users don’t have to wait through a buffering ad and then wait again while the content buffers.
- Cross-platform Web playback with "WPF/E". Available for deployment in the first half of 2007, the new "WPF/E" (code name) browser plug-in integrates rich animation, graphics, and dynamically resizable audio/video playback in a Web page. Programmable using standards-based AJAX, rich media experiences and players based on "WPF/E" are capable of running cross- platform (Windows and Mac) and cross-browser (Internet Explorer, Firefox, Safari) using a lightweight download. "WPF/E" is available for evaluation as a customer technology preview on the "http://www.microsoft.com/wpfe" (code name) page on the Microsoft Web site and will be a freely-available download in final release. "WPF/E" enables many new models of integrated advertising with video, including rich media advertising updated on the fly, custom targeting each viewer, and integrated "call to action" options while the video is playing.
- Ad Logging and Measurement. Broadcasters must be able to measure usage in order to fine-tune the effectiveness of their ads and to provide reporting back to advertisers. The new platform provides the advanced usage reporting that is necessary to ensure broadcasters’ ability to accurately and effectively track and report on advertisement reach.
- Server-side Playlists. Playlists provide an entirely new level of dynamic "on-the-fly," personalized, and reliable content programming.