Microsoft Offers Free Video Hosting

FROM MIX 07 In order to spur adoption of its new Silverlight platform for developing rich Internet applications, Microsoft is offering up free video hosting that falls under the company's Windows Live services brand.

While the downloadable runtime and development tools such as Expression Studio and Visual Stidio provide the crux of Microsoft's Silverlight effort, services are important as well, says product manager Brian Goldfarb. This full ecosystem is what Microsoft hopes will set Silverlight apart from rivals like Adobe Flex and Sun's Java.

In turn, Microsoft is making it easier to deliver content using Silverlight by offering up its massive content delivery network that spans datacenters around the globe. Silverlight Streaming by Windows Live includes storage space of 4GB, and users can upload video segments up to 10 minutes in length.

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Streams can be DVD quality, and Microsoft will provide a URL that can be directly integrated into a Web site or application. During the beta phase, the service will be completely free, although the final release of Silverlight Streaming will be limited to 1 million minutes of streamed video. Still, Goldfarb claims it will be "free forever."

Microsoft says the service will be 3 to 4 times more cost effective than any other streaming solution. Video can be encoded using any number of Windows Media encoding tools, and Silverlight utilizes the VC-1 codec -- also found in HD DVD and Blu-ray -- for streaming.

After about a year, Goldfarb says Microsoft will likely begin integrating pre-roll or post-roll video ads to offset hosting costs, although the company could also overlay ads atop the video. A premium service option will be available for a fee, which will include more professional tools along with integrated DRM and reporting.

Although the focus is on video, Silverlight Streaming by Windows Live can be used to distribute an entire Silverlight application - going well beyond other hosting services like YouTube. "So if you get Digged or Slashdotted, our servers are there to handle the load," explained Microsoft's Scott Guthrie during his Monday morning keynote.

Silverlight Streaming requires the new 1.0 Beta build of the runtime.

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