Windows Media

Windows Media Format

The Windows Media format started to show up in the late 90s as a competitor to the RealPlayer format. At the start they were really only comparable for on demand content. The Windows Media server, although it was free, was no comparison to the RealServer from a system administration standpoint. For live streaming, Windows Media also did not offer push-based broadcasting which required broadcasters to have a static ip address and a open port for the server to connect to with a pull-type broadcast. While the pull-type broadcast is much more reliable than push the lack of a push option made the format unusable for some broadcasters.

With the release of the Windows 2003 server, Microsoft introduced the Windows Media 9 Series. By this time, the Real format was already struggling with its own reputation so the new features, including Push broadcasting and an updated server admin tool, Windows Media started to rapidly pull ahead as the leading format.

The one final hurdle for Windows Media was the lack of a good player for Mac users. In 2007 Microsoft released the Silverlight player that helped to address this issue. The Silverlight player is a light cross-browser/cross-format plugin that allows for the development of custom players for streaming content as well as other applications. With this release, Microsoft finally has an answer to the Flash player for cross platform ability as well as custom player design.

The biggest bonus Windows Media has over Flash format currently is the encoding software. The Microsoft Expressions Encoder allows you to use multiple live and on demand sources and to switch between them during the live broadcast. The Adobe Live Flash Encoder is a single source encoder and doesn’t allow you to source from archive files.  There are 3rd party encoders available for both that offer additional features but those are all paid applications.

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