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Last week, I touched on Cloud Gaming and one approach, Thin Client Game Streaming. Today, I'd like to delve into Fat Client Game Streaming.

Fat Client Game Streaming is another popular method of game streaming that overcomes the challenges of reducing the time to play. Businesses like The Happy Cloud, Spoon, and BitRaider have been early implementers of this approach. This method takes an existing game and essentially creates a new version of the client that can be progressively delivered and installed. When you start to play a game, you don't need every library and component, only a small subset. Much of the software is typically not needed until you make decisions in the game that require additional libraries and components. This approach essentially creates a probability table of what component and libraries you need to start, and a tree of next likely resources. A new shell is created for the software to enable the game to start running with a subset of resources which are loaded based on the probability table.
This allows the gamer to start playing in just a few minutes.The probability table determines the typical starting point in the game for players, and downloads the rest of the library components in the background while the player begins play.

The advantage to this model is that start up times are typically just a few minutes to begin play. After a player authenticates and selects a game, they do not need to wait to download and install the entire game.

Another advantage to this model is that it still allows for offline game play after the initial install is complete while playing. The thin client model does not allow offline gameplay, since a server in the cloud is doing the computations and rendering.

The other major advantage to this model is it does not require the developer to create a separate version of the game. This method involves taking existing gaming code and running it through a set of tools to create the new package that can be streamed. This process can take the course of a few hours to a hundred hours per game.  


The Future of Cloud Gaming Is...Still Cloudy

One of the most popular topics I have been encountering in the online game industry, and among connected device businesses, is the concept of cloud gaming or streaming games to consoles, PCs, smart phones, tablets and smart TVs. I'm also often asked how I define cloud gaming, and whether a fat client or thin client approach is better. Cloud gaming is a very broad term being used to define multiple use cases. At a high level, most people define cloud gaming as running some portion of an online game in the cloud.

Delivering games to users on the plethora of devices on the market today has its challenges, including the fact that users often have to wait an unreasonable time to start playing a game. Game software typically contains libraries and components that need to be downloaded and installed before a user can start playing. So if a person wants to try a new game, they may still need to wait an hour or more to download and install it, before they can play. This is very different from the user experience with online movies or TV shows, where users can quickly and easily watch clips to determine if they want to watch, rent, or purchase a video. Videos can also be transcoded fairly easily for viewing on many different connected device environments. This process is not as easy with game software, since porting code is much more involved and costly, and may not even port to certain devices due to processing, GPU or memory constraints.  

Offering games available across multiple devices also requires creating different versions of a game for various devices. Today, consumers can buy a song or movie and play it across multiple devices, and they want to do the same thing with their games.

Thin Client Game Streaming or Cloud Gaming?
Using a thin client is one popular approach that helps overcome the challenges of "time-to-play" and game porting. Businesses like OnLive, GaiKai (recently acquired by Sony) and Big Fish have been early implementers.  Thin client leverages a light-weight installable client to act as a interface for the gamer, and graphics are pre-rendered on servers in the network and transformed into a video stream to the end device. The thin client sends user information back to the game servers in the cloud, which are rendering the game environment.


Akamai IO - The Akamai Internet Observatory

Possibly the best part of working on Web performance is the community. It always amazes me how users, vendors, and even competitors work together to make the Web faster. Akamai does its best to support this community, through actions like sponsoring Web performance meetups and open-sourcing tools like Mobitest.

However, the most valuable resource Akamai has to offer this community arguably isn't tools - it's data. That's the reason I'm really excited to share with you the launch of Akamai IO - The Akamai Internet Observatory.

What is Akamai IO
Akamai IO is a portal for sharing continuous data from the traffic Akamai sees with the community. Akamai delivers roughly 2 trillion content requests a day, spanning Web sites from practically every industry and geography. This volume and diversity of data is pretty unique, and is a fairly accurate representation of the entire Web.

It's important to emphasize that Akamai IO is a source of data, not conclusions. We hope you will dig into that data and reach your own conclusions, helping everybody's understanding of the Web. We will summarize some of the data in the State of the Internet report, and highlight trends in blog posts, but not within Akamai IO itself.  

Lastly, the data in Akamai IO will be continuously updated. The exact frequency will change based on the data, but we hope to show data no more than a couple of days after it occurred. The timing granularity of the data will also vary, but our goal is to aim for daily data or better.

The initial data set used for Akamai IO is based on very small sample of traffic from several hundred Akamai customer Web sites, amounting to roughly 600 million requests per day. While small in Akamai scale, this is definitely a big enough sample to draw conclusions from. Over time we expect to grow that sample to include requests from most Akamai customer Web sites.
The dramatic increase in quality of video content, combined with new technology that's ability to scale for television-size audiences online, has resulted in a growing TV revolution on the Internet. We've seen audiences on Akamai's HD Network grow dramatically to-date and we believe a 100X increase is possible in the coming years. Are you ready?

Yesterday, speaking at Brightcove PLAY, I outlined three mega trends that are helping to drive this TV revolution:

More premium content is moving online. To meet burgeoning consumer demand for high-quality content, producers and programmers are bringing more and more of their premium content online, via on-demand and live streaming formats.

Convergence of lean-in and lean back. As consumers increasingly seek an enhanced-TV experience, we see more and more people "co-viewing" across devices and not just choosing one screen size over another.

Widespread adoption of mobile media. The proliferation of connected devices is rapidly driving mobile media consumption. For example, according to one recent study, the number of streamed mobile TV users on smartphones will reach 240 million by 2014.

The combination of these three trends presents tremendous opportunities for media companies to better engage with customers at anytime, anywhere -- but you have to make it available to consumers who are expecting a TV-quality experience every time!

Gone are the days when online video was reserved for grainy, VHS-quality at best, user-generated clips of stupid pet tricks. Today's video is HD, personalized, and primed for monetization. It needs to look sharp, like the difference between these two clips: http://wwwns.akamai.com/brightcove/dog_redbull_oneclip_final.mp4

If you want to build a real business online with video, the path you need to take has come into sharp focus.

Paul Sagan is Akamai's President and CEO
 

Ready, Set, Play at Games on the Edge!

The online gaming industry has faced enormous change over the last few years - from digital distribution to internet-connected consoles to more mobile access of casual and social games.

There are 4 key trends creating change in the gaming industry and related eco-systems. First, digital distribution of games is going mainstream, and will likely become the only means of distributing games with the next generation consoles. Second, games are the most popular type of social app for people to interact with each other, which means almost every game has to support online gameplay and communities. Third, games have created one of the largest economies of virtual goods and microtransactions, with players buying, selling, and trading virtual property and paying for virtual property. And lastly, and this is an emerging trend, consumers want the right to play a game across multiple devices once they have paid.

Games on the Edge is a site featuring gaming-related content from leading global game publishers showcasing online delivery of game demos, game site content and game trailers leveraging Akamai's Intelligent Platform. These companies are on the cutting-edge of many of these industry trends. Visit the site to learn more about their games and vision. Hear game-related announcements and industry commentary from gPotato and Aeria Games on the Industry Voices section. Play games ranging from MMOs to Action to Adventure to Fighting to Real Time Strategy to Casual from Aeria Games, gPotato, Trion Worlds, mGame USA, OG Planet and Moviestarplanet.



The gaming industry is on the cutting edge for leveraging the latest technologies and business models, so it proves a great showcase for how these companies benefit from the various solutions within Akamai's Intelligent Platform across delivery, security, downloads and more. We invite you to visit www.gamesontheedge.com, play some games, and contact us if you have questions or comments.

Kris Alexander is Chief Strategist, Connected Devices and Gaming, at Akamai.
Online gains increase pressure on Store Reinvention
Returning from the MICROS User Conference, after speaking on the imperative of the Cloud in Retail, I find myself hopeful - even enthusiastic - for the future of stores.

After the release of ComScore's ecommerce growth metrics last week, this may be a surprise. 17% growth in Q1 in the ecommerce channel is clear evidence that online channel growth is accelerating at the expense of bricks and mortar sales. Given retailers' hesitance to dramatically rethink their store systems architecture en masse, the bad news may come with the silver lining - dramatic change has to happen to survive.

YouCommerce versus Multi-Channel
We are no longer talking about multi-channel. In the era of YouCommerce shoppers are hyperconnected, moving fluidly across digital touchpoints, social networks, ecommerce storefronts, devices, and store locations, with many of these touchpoints overlapping.

Should it matter where a customer purchases as long as the touchpoints are integrated and consistent, and the collective cost of engagement through those touchpoints justifies the investment?



The 65th Annual Cannes Film Festival has arrived....and if you don't find yourself in the South of France, sipping champagne and rubbing elbows with the elite, there's still hope for you to enjoy this year's event.

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Daily on-demand video coverage and film trailers from this year's Cannes Film Festival to the Festival's global audience are available to the Festival's global audience at www.festival-cannes.com.

As Festival organizers embrace the digital age and all the opportunities it presents, fans and film enthusiasts can experience the atmosphere and excitement of the globally-recognized film festival alongside those actually attending the event. For the second year in the Festival's history, red carpet events, new films, movie trailers and related on-demand content will be offered via streaming to iPhone, iPad, Android and Blackberry devices across the Akamai Intelligent Platform's HD Network.  

Jennifer Donovan is Senior Manager of Public Relations at Akamai
It's no secret that the proliferation of new devices in the marketplace and the resulting platform fragmentation, has created numerous challenges for content providers who are trying to satisfy customer demand for anytime, anywhere access to content. In the last quarter alone Apple sold 35.1 million iPhones and 11.8 million iPads, while Samsung sold 46.9 million smartphones. Throw in Android tablets, RIM devices, desktop systems and laptops, gaming consoles and connected TVs; and it is easy to understand how providers are struggling to deal with the range of delivery formats. This problem is further compounded for those companies that need to distribute content securely. As it stands today there are also numerous DRM solutions on the marketing including Flash Access, PlayReady, Widevine, OMA and Marlin, adding cost and complexity for providers who are trying to figure the best way to address this challenge.

This sentiment was echoed at the recently held NAB conference, where providers indicated that one of the biggest growing concern for companies that need to securely distribute content to the widest number of consumers is indeed device fragmentation.

As the leading cloud platform for helping enterprises provide a secure user experience, Akamai has always been actively engaged in solving the most pressing challenges facing M&E companies. Our message to content providers has always been, "tell us your business model, the devices you're trying to reach, how you want to distribute your content, and we'll pick the best blend of technologies to help you achieve your goals and reach the widest number of devices possible."

Akamai has the same goal when it comes to content security. The reality is that the DRM market is going to remain fragmented for some time, which makes it important for companies to build a common layer for managing and deploying services across the various platforms. This ask is neither small nor cheap for providers, so we're working to create one standard product and interface using the Akamai Intelligent Platform that will interact with the DRM interface of our customers - helping them to distribute in any format they require.

At Akamai we're committed to reducing the complexities and cost for providers in an increasingly fragmented media universe, through the development of innovative technology and partnering with key players in the industry on the challenges that really matter for our customers. Akamai is a founding member of the DASH Promoter's Group, and we provide full support for UltraViolet and other emerging standards that require security for premium content combined with ease of use and a seamless consumer experience. This is an integral part of our efforts across the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE) to continue the dialogue not just on security solutions, but standards, and together move the industry faster forward.

Shawn Michels is a Senior Product Manager at Akamai
Major sports brands have always led the way when it comes to leveraging technology to reach fans in more engaging and interactive ways. True fans never want to miss a moment of the action and as a direct result, the Super Bowl was streamed live for the first time last month and more than 2.1 million people watched, NBC said.
 
Next up is the big college basketball tournament happening throughout March! This year, fans can watch all of 67 games live on the Internet across more devices and platforms. Did you know there were 256 million Internet-connected devices in the market in 2011, according to InStat? During last year's tournament, 30% of streams were delivered to iPhone and iPad applications alone, and that doesn't even account for all the other mobile devices and tablets users can engage with.
 
So this begs the question, how will you as a fan engage with the games this year? How connected are you when it comes to watching your teams vie for the win? Tell us about your viewing habits with this quick survey: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/XSFPVH8

Thanks for your time, and stay tuned to see the results!
I have been on my flight out to San Francisco to attend the Game Developers Conference as I write this, and have been thinking about how greatly our lives have been changed by hyperconnectivity. Do you feel like your lives have been impacted in this new era of devices? In which ways? Share your stories with us. I have been following Apple's product announcements today over my non-PC device via wifi on the airplane.  Apple kicked off mentioning that it sold 172M post PC devices last year, which now make up 76% of Apple's revenue. 

There is already chatter about the impact the next generation of connected devices will have.  Support for 4G/LTE promises to give users a better experience, enable new apps and experiences, and provide new revenue for the operators... However, it has also introduced the question of more congestion on already strained network resources.  More functionality and higher resolutions are also being supported on connected living devices ranging from the media boxes like the Apple TV to Smart TVs to game consoles, which introduces similar challenges in enabling experiences in the office, local metro, or home due to increased network contention. 

Every user who starts up an app or browser is fighting with every other user's demand, and most users are multi-tasking with multiple apps and browsers.  While we at Akamai have been working on technologies to address these and other challenges, the pace of innovation across industries and Eco systems is likely to continue to create a more rapid pace of challenges. How are you addressing these challenges where you work? Share your innovation stories.

Sent from my mobile device, on wifi, on an airplane... Please excuse typos

Kris Alexander is Akamai's Chief Strategist for Connected Devices and Gaming
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