Although streaming media easily found its niche in the entertainment industry, the applications have had a hard time snagging a toehold in other corporate sectors. At last week's Streaming Media East 2000 show in New York, companies such as Microsoft and PassEdge unveiled efforts to capture a piece of the business and e-commerce market.
Potential uses for streaming media in the enterprise include e-business, distance training, marketing, videoconferencing, and customer support. However, most companies have been wary of bringing in streaming media because of concerns about stability and reliability.
"The danger with introducing streaming media applications that don't work is that you drive people away and lose audiences," explained John Parker, senior analyst for multimedia and content infrastructure at Aberdeen Group.
"One thing that might turn off a high-level IT manager or CIO is the fact that the streaming applications you see are loudly and blatantly consumer-and entertainment-oriented," Parker added. "It's tough for people to understand that entertainment really is what brings people into that [streaming media] space and keeps them there, whether you're using it for e-commerce or movies."
For Microsoft, e-commerce will be the focus of the Digital Broadcast Manager, a management application aimed at merging digital media and e-commerce so businesses can sell and manage streaming content on the Web.
According to product manager Michael Aldridge, Digital Broadcast Manager uses Windows Media streaming technology to convert digital content into products, such as pay-per-view concerts or on-demand Web casts, and manages the secure distribution of that content.
Digital Broadcast Manager, targeted at content providers and ASPs (application service providers), is priced in the US at 10 cents per transaction after a one-time $495 activation fee. After customers exceed 1.5 million transactions in a 12-month period, all transactions are free.
To protect digital video content on the Web, PassEdge, unveiled its StreamAccess Digital Rights Management for Video (DRMV) system. By encrypting video content streams and tracking their distribution over IP networks, PassEdge hopes to avoid a Napster-type battle in the video world.
"DRMV lets you support [the] same kind of commerce models you see in the brick-and-mortar world for video: subscription, pay-per-view, and rental," said Mark Ashida, president and CEO at PassEdge. "We built a system that also allows you to manage the [encryption] keys, subscribers, and content, so you determine who has access to your content and for how long," he said.
Ashida said digital media security will become increasingly important as the video industry moves online and will be sought after to protect videocasts as businesses adopt videoconferencing systems.