Opinion: Silverlight helps bring streaming video to Olympics Web site
CIO - How would you like to be handed this IT project: create a website that will present 2,200 hours of live, interactive video, plus integrated broadcast coverage. The site will have huge spikes of traffic, and operate under worldwide scrutiny, so it has to be designed for performance. It has to be done in the next 150 days; no schedule extensions are possible. And it must deliver a brilliant user experience.
That's the job in front of the developers for the Summer Olympics website, which also will offer expert commentary and sports biographies and permit users to share links to favorite event videos. During the MIX 08 keynote address on Wednesday, Perkins Miller, senior vice president of digital media for NBC Sports & Olympics, said that this was "the most ambitious online project."
During the Olympics, the site (demonstrated in prototype form during the keynote) will deliver video interactively for 17 days. The coverage of Olympics events -- built using Microsoft's Silverlight technology, will let site visitors do much more than start, pause, and stop a video. Users can rewind the video and click on replay to see a particularly astonishing bit of gymnastics. If a user sets up watch lists, an alert can pop up over the current video to remind the user that another event is starting.
A picture-in-picture feature (as you might see on a regular TV) lets you watch the gymnastics competition with a minimized view of the baseball game tucked away in the corner. The list of "most popular videos" includes multiple streams of live videos. Even granting the fairy dust of scripted demos, this is all very cool.
Silverlight 2.0's release to beta was one of Microsoft's biggest announcements at the MIX 08 conference, and every breakout session on the topic was packed full. (More so than the session on Internet Explorer 8, to my mild surprise.) To crib directly from Microsoft's press materials, which in this case is an adequate summary: "Silverlight 2 supports managed code, includes the core of the Common Language Runtime and adds over two dozen user interface controls (such as button, check box, date controls, gridview and layout) that are designed to be used right out of the box, or to be tweaked with styles. If you need full control over the look and feel, the appearance of any control can be fully determined by templates and control behavior can be modified by hooking events, or ultimately by creating custom controls."
The "rich user experience" is one thing (Don't you wish you had a nickel for every time a Microsoft person said rich?), but Microsoft also is stressing that Silverlight's benefits include total cost of ownership and monetization (by which they mean "You can integrate advertising into video, and do cool things with your banner ads").
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