A good chunk of the electronics industry has signed on to advocate for a new streaming video standard, MPEG DASH. The endorsements are a promising sign that the large number of streaming formats will be reduced, but the absence of at least one key company on the list suggests that number will not be whittled down to one.
MPEG DASH (Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP) is designed to be a universal alternative to the hodgepodge of streaming formats out there; it was ratified as a standard in November.
Most of the streaming technologies in use today are proprietary. Among the most popular are Microsoft's Smooth Streaming, Adobe's Dynamic Streaming and Apple's HTTP Live Streaming (HLS).
Microsoft – a founding member of the DASH Promoters Group – and Adobe are among the companies that intend to promote MPEG DASH. Apple, however, is not on the list, which might be problematic for the universality of MPEG DASH, given that Apple's iPhone, iPod and iPad products are so very widely used by consumers for receiving streamed content.
Netflix and Qualcomm are the other two founding members of the Promoter's Group. Other companies include: AEG Digital Media, Akamai, BuyDRM, Digital Rapids, Digital TV Labs, Dolby, EBU-UER, Elemental, Envivio, Ericsson, Harmonic, Intertrust, NDS, Packet Ship, Path1, RGB Networks, Samsung, Thomson, University of Klagenfurt and ZiXi.
Several of these companies are demonstrating DASH streaming video at Mobile World Congress 2012 in Qualcomm's exhibit. Participants include Harmonic, Akamai and Qualcomm.
The group said it expects commercial DASH solutions later this year.
MPEG DASH aims to solve the problems frequently shared by the current crop of streaming technologies: intermittent stalls, poor video quality under changing network conditions and significant video start-up lag.
In addition to promoting broad adoption of DASH, the Promoters Group will focus on aligning ongoing DASH standards development, promoting the use of common profiles across industry organizations, and facilitating interoperability tests and plug-fests to demonstrate the usability and completeness of the DASH standard.
"Given Microsoft's role in chairing the development in ISO/MPEG of the DASH standard, we are excited to see it become available to customers," said Sudheer Sirivara, senior director of media services on the Azure Application Platform Team at Microsoft. "We pioneered the development of adaptive streaming as a platform with Smooth Streaming, and over the last three years, we have learned a lot about doing adaptive streaming at scale across multiple customers and large online events. We look forward to bringing our learning to MPEG DASH to help make it successful as a widely deployed standard."
The DASH Promoters Group is also working toward recommended deployment configurations for DASH, informally called DASH-264. This would enable a minimum set of DASH requirements for the industry and help enable further commercialization of mobile devices that support it.
Support for a universal streaming video technology is growing, but Apple's refusal to play along could be problematic.