Peter Farfaras

Microsoft's Take On Video

Online video undoubtedly plays a significant role in emerging media. Video is nothing new, but its use on a growing variety of devices (smartphones, tablet PCs, laptops etc.) has sky rocketed in the last few years. YouTube alone reaches upwards of 2 billion views per day, doubled from one year ago. Video is obviously here to stay, but it isn't a static format. With our ever-growing needs, it is constantly evolving to be clearer, simplified and easier for developers to work with.
I was recently given the opportunity to interview Peter Farfaras, Emerging Video Specialist for Microsoft. He spoke at SES Toronto last week and had the following to say about emerging media and Microsoft's role in the development of online video.
Q: Can you provide some insight on Silverlight vs HTML5? Adobe has had a lot of push back lately (Apple war) and HTML5 is being touted as the next major platform for video. What are your thoughts on how Silverlight compares here?
A (this first answer came from Senior Video Product Manager Matthew McKenzie):
Microsoft ships the world's most popular HTML client. Despite the HTML5 specification being a work in progress, we implemented several HTML5 features in our most recent browser. Microsoft has co-chaired the HTML5 working group in W3C since its inception, and we remain active participants. Our browser will continue to be the dominant HTML standards implementation for the foreseeable future.
Likewise, we continue to invest heavily in Silverlight development and deployment. There is no one-size-fits-all, perfect tool for every development job. HTML5 will be fantastic for some scenarios, while Silverlight will be great for others.
Q: Coverage being distributed via Silverlight? Are more developers using it now?
A: Yes, more and more developers are using Silverlight, and we have a DPE team dedicated to Silverlight evangelism. As for results from our collaboration with CTV for the Olympic video coverage, below are some impressive statistics worth noting provided by our DPE teams:

Q: Do you think large-scale production videos are going to be replaced by more web-ready compact video?
A: No, I don’t see large-scale production videos being entirely replaced by web-ready compact video. I do however see the changes or improvements being made to optimize the production of Video.
Definitions of video content types are always changing but the core question is around production and type.
There will be times when video production will either be less, the same or more complex to create than TV; but as I stated earlier, this will be dependent of the type/genre of content or event. We have millions (even billions) of examples of compact/low cost production—"handycam" or mobile video content—being created and uploaded to the web all of the time.
It really comes down to what environment the video viewer is in. Think of "a day in the life" scenario: do they want to watch premium long-form video content that has high production quality in the evening, short-form premium video on demand while they are at work or travelling, or low-res —UGC or viral video content—for a laugh. Context matters. We will still have large-scale production video, we’ll just have them optimized and create and distribute them more efficiently; that’s where the evolving world of video technology comes in. (Attached is a condensed version of our Context Matters by eMarketer.)
Q: Where do you see the video industry five years out?
A: Based on global statistics, Canada continues to maintain one of the highest levels of video usage as a percentage of population: currently 88%+ (according to comScore Video Metrix, April 2010).
I expect to see continued growth, especially if online video adoption, viewing, usage continues at its current trajectory.
It’s really exciting to think about how dynamic this environment will be. It’s always evolving and there are several forces at play, a few being:

  • Increased PVR/DVR adoption
  • More and more content shifting online (globally)
  • Viewers continuing to want a choice of how they can access either long-form or short-form content
  • What viewers can do with that content (stream, download, share, etc.)
  • Networks wanting to capitalize on a growing/shifting audience—to meet the ‘convenience factor’
  • Technology companies wanting to provide the vehicles for viewing this content (software, hardware)
  • ISPs/cable operators needing to scale accordingly to this demand and perhaps even change their revenue structures

The perception may be that video is still in its early days when you compare it to TV, but we have this perfect environment where users will continue to demand access to video content online, especially as more and more short-form and long-form TV moves online. Just take a look at the Vancouver Olympic stats referred to above, those are some unprecedented numbers. Video isn’t going away.
Q: What are some ways that Microsoft is planning to use video and stay ahead of the curve?
A: Video will continue to be a key pillar for Microsoft: delivering premium video content to our users via the most reliable and cutting edge technology. Our new MSN Video destination site improves on previous versions. The end-user experience is paramount, and the new player takes the UX to the next level.
Features like:

  • Dim the lights—cinematic experience—where users can dim the background of the site and content making the video player standout
  • HD content: Full-screen in HD content
  • 14 different sharing features and options
  • Unique URLs for each video
  • This is key for Video Search as the metadata is improved/more robust

What are your thoughts on the emerging role of video? What would you like to see companies like Microsoft introduce into the market?