Content delivery market leader Akamai Technologies (AKAM) generated lots of buzz in the CDN sector last week when it scheduled a media event to announce "a new strategic company direction for video delivery." Yesterday the company unveiled the Akamai HD Network, a platform to deliver high-definition online video using Adobe Flash technology, Microsoft Silverlight and the iPhone. "The Akamai HD Network is the only solution that supports live and on-demand HD streaming with a highly-personalized and interactive online experience that matches and complements HD television," the company said. Did the announcement live up the anticipation? Here's a roundup of notable commentary and analysis:
- Dan Rayburn at The Business of Online Video says the new technology doesn't address Akamai's broader business challenges. "If Akamai does not lower their pricing for this new platform, it won't do anything to help their business grow," Dan wrote in his initial reaction. "Watching video in HD quality is nice, but most content owners are not putting their content in HD today due to the added cost, not because of any technology limitation." He followed that up with a longer, sharply critical commentary of Akamai's current strategy.
- Ryan Lawler at Contentinople drills down on technical issues surrounding Akamai's plan for http-based streaming. "Not all of the protocols named actually support HTTP streaming right now," Ryan writes. "While Silverlight and the iPhone both use HTTP streaming, the most recent version of Adobe's Flash Media Server (FMS), version 3.5, does not.
- Rob Powell at Telecom Ramblings says Akamai's new offering "raises the stakes for smaller CDNs still looking for scale and profits, and it emphasizes the never-ending treadmill of upgrades and new platforms they may need to keep up with to stay in the game." But he also wonders whether Akamai's tease oversold the announcement. "I guess I was expecting a 'new strategic direction' to be a bit more – shall we say – dramatic? It’s not as if we haven’t been watching video roll onto the internet steadily and mercilessly for some time."
- Xconomy looks at the technical underpinnings of the HD delivery. "The key to the network is a technique called adaptive bitrate streaming, which allows Akamai to raise or lower the quality of a video stream to match the available bandwidth without any interruption in viewing," Wade Roush writes. "Deploying this adaptive technique to its network of 50,000 servers around the world will allow Akamai to transmit smooth video to audiences in 70 countries, the company said."
- PC World focused on the sexy notion of HD video for the iPhone. "If Akamai's infrastructure can deliver high-quality live video to the popular handsets and AT&T's 3G network can handle the strain, it could be a boon to iPhone users," it observes.
- Good Gear Guide notes Akamai's focus on a different audience: Hollywood content producers. "Our HD Network has been designed for large-scale broadcasters and studios," said Akamai CEO Paul Sagan. "Our goal is to meet and surpass the needs of the film and television industries… TV is now possible online at HD bitrates."