Will Streaming Media shed its skin?

Tuesday Feb 9th 1999 by Adnan Ashraf
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The following is an excerpt from an interview with John Maxwell Hobbs, head of Creative Development at Ericsson Cyberlab






Located in New York's financial district and Silicon Alley, Ericsson CyberLab NY is a fast-prototyping business development facility focused on emerging Internet technologies and applications in business markets. We spoke with Creative Director John Maxwell Hobbs about concerns that intranet managers will face as they develop video-conferencing and other streamed-media applications.

"I believe that videoconferencing will soon replace standard telephony in office environments, and in the home shortly after that. Voice or text only communications will still be used in mobile and compromised bandwidth situations. "

- John Maxwell Hobbs

Intranet Journal: What role do companies like Activate, Globix and Encoding.com play in the relationship between content providers and streaming media?

John Maxwell Hobbs: They function in the same way that Webhosting companies function. They provide hardware, bandwidth, systems administration and encoding services.

IJ: Do you agree with RealNetworks' Rob Glaser when he suggests that television is going to migrate to the Web?

JMH: Yes and no. I believe PC is one of the worst possible devices to do anything on, let alone watch TV. I believe that the Web is superfluous to the delivery of streaming media content - the Internet is what is key. What I foresee is the ubiquitous use of IP to deliver media to a wide variety of rendering devices, some of which will resemble a traditional TV set.

IJ: If in the near future, TV stations migrate their programming to the Web, what role will a company like Activate or Globix play? For instance, would you anticipate yourself in a relationship with NBC, or an independent multimedia content producer, or both?

JMH: I believe that TV networks will be delivering the Web over their digital broadcast spectrum, and in that way will be running their own over-air "Intranets". If they use the Internet, it will be mainly for advertising. The Internet and the Web as we know it will function as a democratic distribution medium - anyone can broadcast, but will have to share bandwidth. As far as a business relationship - I would say both.

IJ: Basically, what I'm trying to figure out is where do companies like Activate, and Globix fit into the future broadcasting paradigm? Is it fair to put Activate and Globix in the same class?

JMH: I think they will function as they do now - technology contractors for people who don't have the time, interest, or resources to handle it themselves.


IJ: Do you foresee streaming media becoming de rigeur in the context of corporate operations

JMH: I believe that videoconferencing will soon replace standard telephony in office environments, and in the home shortly after that. Voice or text only communications will still be used in mobile and compromised bandwidth situations.

IJ: If networks and TV stations eventually catch up to Globix, Activate, etc., and do their own streaming delivery themselves, then what does that leave you with in terms of business?

JMH: This doesn't really apply, since Ericsson is one of the largest communications companies in the world and will probably have Globix and/or NBC as a client, if that's the way the market goes.

IJ: What exactly is multicasting and how does it work?

JMH: In standard Webcasting, a new stream is opened for each client, using up a huge amount of bandwidth. In multicasting, a single stream is delivered to a multicasting node, most likely on an ISP - that node than delivers the stream to each client on that ISP, thus reducing the bandwidth consumption between the originating server and the rest of the world.

IJ: What is your position on G2 technology versus Windows MediaPlayer?

JMH: I'm behind G2, since it is standards-based and an open platform.

IJ: Can you give me example of corporations that have experienced substantial ROI by streaming media in the enterprise? Ira Machefsky [an IT analyst at Norwell, Massachusetts-based Giga Information Group] says because of bandwidth, self-paced training and video-conferencing are the best emergent applications of streaming media in the enterprise. Care to comment?

JMH: I don't have an answer for this one, it's not my field of study.

IJ: What excites you about Streaming Media today? Where will it go in the future?

JMH: I like the idea of on-demand delivery. "Streaming media" as a buzzword will disappear as bandwidth becomes abundant - all media is streaming as long as it can be delivered faster than it takes to decode and render it.


Stay tuned next week for the second part of our series on Streaming Media with industry luminaries.


John Maxwell Hobbs is a musician and has been working with computer multimedia for over fifteen years. He is currently in charge of multimedia development at Ericsson CyberLab New York. His interactive composition "Web Phases" was recently one of the winners of ASCI's Digital '98 competition and is currently on exhibit at the New York Hall of Science. John Maxwell Hobbs can be reached at: john.maxwell.hobbs@ericsson.com.

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