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Ultra HD, The Next Gen TV: Who Can Afford Them?

Anyone at this year's CES would have seen the connected device manufacturers promoting "Ultra HD" or "4K" TV. This next-generation TV provides picture quality many times better than HD (or BluRay) devices can produce today - 3840 * 2160, (approx. 8.3 megapixels per frame) vs. HD's 1920 * 1080 (approx. 2.1 megapixels per frame). On the surface, it seems like a breakthrough and early adopters will undoubtedly covet this new screen, but will they be impressed enough to make a purchase?

LG Electronic's CEO Havis Kwon said "2013 is an important year because for LG, it marks the beginning of a newTV era.  With game-changing products such as the OLED TV and Ultra HD TV, we are in a strong position strategically to lead the industry. Delivery of our Ultra HD TV well before the competition and the imminent release of our OLED TV in the first quarter of 2013 will give us a head start in a market where speed is a critical component of success."  So seems at least LG is betting big on it.  Rumour was that after 5 months LG had sold only 300 of its early models!

Predictably, there are potential stumbling blocks. The 4K TV is expensive. The first screens will hit the market in the middle of the year and Sony is taking pre-orders for its 86" model at US$25,000. Samsung's 85" is rumored around $37,000 and LG's 84" at 24,000. The price is on the high side, but many early adopters, who are keen for the latest gadgets, will open their wallets. With each new generation TV screen, the time taken for price commoditization gets shorter and shorter, so it's likely that more mainstream, attainable consumer pricing will be available in a year or so.

The major stumbling block for this new gadget is lack of content. Broadcasters currently do not broadcast in 4K. Their current best is 1080i, which is not as good as 1080p or BluRay. Sony's offering comes with ten 4K movies pre-loaded and Samsung is promoting an engine to improve 1080i/p but not to the full 4K quality, although the Samsung CES demo looked stunning.

Advertising, the Super Bowl and Ray Lewis' Greatest Feat

Does anybody realize there's a football (American football, depending upon where you're reading) game being played in between advertisements this Sunday? Perhaps it's the bitter Patriots fan in me talking, but for many, the Super Bowl is more about the ads than the game itself. And why not? It's huge business. The New York Times reported that the average cost for a 30-second spot during this year's game is between $3.7 million and $3.8 million.

Akamai is proud to be delivering Website traffic for a significant portion of this year's Super Bowl advertisers, representing a cross-section of industries and a veritable who's who of global brands. As we've done in the past, we've created the Super Bowl Advertising Index, a near-real-time visualization of aggregated Website traffic for Akamai customers who are advertising during the game. The Index will show total page views per minute to a collection of advertisers' sites that are Akamai customers, and will remain available for two weeks following the game.

Follow @Akmai on Twitter for live updates during the Super Bowl. Also, check out our Social Media Index to see how traffic to a collection of social sites is behaving during the game. Could it be a big play that drives the largest traffic spike; or perhaps a particularly buzzworthy commercial? I'm putting my money on Ray Lewis' post-game levitation above the 50-yard-line before rocketing through the Super Dome roof and off into space.

Chris Nicholson is a senior public relations manager at Akamai.
This is the first installment in a series of posts that discuss various challenges of online video and how Akamai's Sola Media Solutions can be used to address those challenges.

Live video streaming has become an increasingly important part of the web content universe, as a variety of businesses and organizations attempt to capture 'share of eyeball' and deliver richer, more HDTV-like experiences. From breaking news, to live sports, to video promotions, to historic events like Felix Baumgartner's recent jump from space, more and more people all over the world are counting on live, real-time access via streaming video on virtually every platform, from traditional browsers to mobile devices.

The broad adoption of social media increases the likelihood of rapid, almost instantaneous audience growth. With a few tweets and re-tweets of a live event link, huge audience spikes are easily made possible. If the delivery solution has not been architected for this rapid viewer scaling, the risk of playback failure is high.

At the same time, the quality expectations of these ever-increasing audiences continue to grow. Not only is HD quality for online video desired - it is becoming the de-facto standard for all viewing experiences, from HDTV home viewing to "anywhere" viewing on mobile devices with "better than HD" quality displays.

CES 2013: What We're Watching

Every New Year brings with it scores of traditions, from resolutions, fireworks and champagne toasts to the Times Square ball, "Auld Lang Syne" and midnight smooches. Perhaps not quite as time honored or widely anticipated, this time of year also heraldsCES_crowd2.jpg prognostications of what the big stories and technologies coming out of the annual Consumer Electronics Show (CES) will be.

At Akamai, where so much of what we do touches the daily lives of consumers around the world, we're as interested in what's going on at CES professionally as we are personally. We're not just helping content owners deliver the best streaming video services, we're enjoying them at home and on the go thanks to our TV Everywhere solutions, for example. With that in mind, members of our digital media marketing and engineering teams took a few minutes to share what they'll be keeping an eye on during next week's confab in Las Vegas.

Kurt Michel, Director of Product Marketing, Sola Media Solutions
  • 4K TVs, or Ultra HD. Since content still can't be sourced from broadcast, it has to be served over the top. It's still fairly early, but it will be interesting to see how this and the related explosion in bandwidth plays out.
  • OLED display quality. This is awesome, high-quality video that can be displayed in a thinner form factor that's actually cheaper over the long term.
  • Any video technology on flexible media.

The Hyperconnected Holidays

Once again, we're full swing into the holidays and already beyond the biggest shopping days of the year. Like last year, we should ask ourselves what this means in terms of so many more connected devices coming online that were given as gifts during the holiday season. When these devices are removed from their packaging and connected, everyone involved in the ecosystem needs to be prepared to support the consumer.

In the spirit of the holidays and good fun, I present "The Twelve Days of Hyperconnectivity." I'll just ask that you allow a little leeway to make it work!

The first day of hyper connectivity gave to me, a connected device under the tree
The second day of hyper connectivity gave to me, a fully charged battery
The third day of hyper connectivity gave to me, Wi-fi and 4G
The fourth day of hyper connectivity gave to me, network services connecting
The fifth day of hyper connectivity gave to me, software patches loading
The sixth day of hyper connectivity gave to me, digital goods to shop for
The seventh day of hyper connectivity gave to me, gift codes to redeem
The eighth day of hyper connectivity gave to me, logins and passcodes
The ninth day of hyper connectivity gave to me, lots of apps downloading
The tenth day of hyper connectivity gave to me, lots of music and video streaming
The eleventh day of hyper connectivity gave to me, video games playing
The twelfth day of hyper connectivity gave to me, video chats running

In all seriousness, we are in a world where everyone from the connected device manufacturers and media, gaming and app businesses, to retailers, wireless carriers and broadband operators all need to be preparing. When someone first opens their connected holiday gift, they are going to want to use it, which means connecting, finding the content they want, obtaining the content and using the content. The quality of this consumer experience directly affects all the businesses involved. If part of the experience is poor, the consumer doesn't necessarily know who to contact to solve an issue, meaning anyone in the chain could get support inquiries. And if consumers can't solve issues they run into, then products are returned and exchanged.

New Video Quality Study Examines Causes of Viewer Behavior

Online video viewers are willing to wait two seconds for a file to load before they start abandoning the content for something else. This is according to a new study of online video stream quality that analyzed an unprecedented 23 million views from 6.7 million unique viewers across the Akamai network.

The study, "Video Stream Quality Impacts Viewer Behavior: Inferring Causality using Quasi-Experimental Designs," takes a scientific look at how changes in video quality can cause online video viewers to change their behavior, going beyond just identifying correlating factors that may or may not be directly related to differences in behaviors. Jointly conducted by Ramesh Sitaraman, an Akamai fellow and professor of computer science at the University of Massachusetts - Amherst, and S. Shunmuga Krishan, a senior system software engineer at Akamai, this is the first study to show a causal relationship between video quality and viewer behavior.

In the following video, Ramesh sheds light on the unique background on the unique nature of the study along with some of its salient points.


Akamai Rocks with Global Citizen Festival

While last month's Global Citizen Festival drew more than 60,000 people to the Great Lawn in New York City's Central Park, Akamai helped bring the live concert to a massive online audience around the world by delivering the video stream over our Sola Sphere media platform. The Festival was streamed live around the globe in HD quality by Premiere Festival Sponsor, Vividas. The event, which was organized by the Global Poverty Project to raise awareness of and fight extreme poverty, included performances by Neil Young, Foo Fighters, The Black Keys, Band of Horses and K'naan. 

We were pleased to again partner with AEG Digital Media in making another high-profile event available to online viewers who would otherwise not have had the opportunity to participate. This was a tremendous effort that was live-streamed on VEVO, YouTube, Aol, Yahoo, VH1, CMT and NYTimes.com, and broadcast by AXS TV, Palladia, Globo Brazil and Fuse. Organizers said it was the largest syndication of a live music charity concert in webcast and broadcast history. 

Those efforts paid off. Afterward, the Global Poverty Project said the event raised $1.3 billion in pledges to help its cause.

The Simplicity Mantra at IBC

Online video was clearly "top of mind" at this year's IBC, and it was fascinating to hear from a variety of companies across the broadcast spectrum and learn more about their video delivery, monitoring, and monetization needs.

If I could put my finger on one major topic I heard over and over again at this year's IBC Conference, it's simplicity. Companies want simplicity across the board ­- whatever it takes to quickly get new video content out to viewers. That's what they wanted to talk about. From companies with large content libraries, to service providers who need to deliver it, the thought of serving all of the different devices viewers are using can seem overwhelming! They wanted to know how to prepare and secure the content for delivery to all of those devices, and they also wanted to understand how to access the end-device player technologies that bring it all together for viewers. On top of that, they want to simplify the authentication experience for viewers, while also removing the complexities of allowing content owner and service provider systems talk together in support of that simplification.

As I showed the demos of our new cloud-based Sola Vision transcoding, stream packaging, and identity services offerings, Akamai's own simplicity message resonated with visitors. They could see how simple preparing and delivering high quality online video can be with a simple, unified workflow that just happens to be built on top of the world's largest CDN.

Visitors to our exhibit at IBC could clearly see the difference between the CDN capabilities we offer, and the value-added video simplification tools we now provide. And they showed real enthusiasm for the simplicity and performance that Sola Media Solutions offers them.

I'm looking forward to continuing the many conversations that we started at IBC in the months to come.

Kurt Michel is a director of product marketing at Akamai

The Sun Rises on Sola Media Solutions

Just in time for the International Broadcasting Convention (IBC), Akamai earlier today introduced Sola Media Solutions. A comprehensive set of cloud based, integrated services, Sola Media is designed to meet the increasing audience demand for content that is available when and where viewers want it, on a wide variety of devices, and with the highest quality possible.

Put simply, Sola Media is all about giving our customers an easy and effective way to address the core challenges of providing an engaging audience experience. We can help them adapt and protect content and ensure that content is connected in the larger video ecosystem with Sola Vision. We allow our customers to store and deliver content with Sola Sphere. And we give them the tools to better understand the user experience with Sola Media Analytics.

If you're going to be at IBC in Amsterdam, stop in at Stand 7.K36 and ask to see Sola Media Solutions in action - especially the brand new cloud-based transcoding and stream packaging capabilities. Or, watch the below video. Our director of product marketing for Sola Media Solutions discusses why we believe Sola Media is a great way for content providers to engage audiences with superior quality video, solve the challenges of multi-device consumption, and increase video monetization. At the end, there is an opportunity to schedule a meeting or demo if you'd like more information.

Rob Morton is a senior manager for public relations at Akamai

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.  

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