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Microsoft Stream Turned Loose in the Wild

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Microsoft Stream Turned Loose in the Wild

By: -
9 Aug 2018

Microsoft Stream is taking its first big step out of its live video cocoon.

After announcing a private beta last month for enabling live video on its enterprise streaming platform for Office 365, Microsoft last week opened up the new live features for public beta.

The relatively rapid move to release the trial version of the service into the wild – along with the unveiling of added features not showcased during the initial announcement of Microsoft Stream’s live features in mid-July - indicates Microsoft Stream is evolving more quickly than previously seemed to be the case.

Primary among the live capabilities not broadly highlighted until now include the capability to initiate live video content creation designed for large audiences from both the Microsoft Teams application and the hosted Microsoft Stream service. With these platform elements now more visible as part of the public beta, it appears that Microsoft Stream’s live solution will be enabling a range of conventional enterprise webcasting options that were not immediately apparent during last month’s announcement of the private beta of Stream’s live video capabilities.

Indeed, when first announced in conjunction with Microsoft’s broader update of Teams solution last month, the platform’s live streaming capabilities were positioned primarily as a tool capable of presenting video in Yammer’s enterprise social media feed. The packaging had cast Microsoft’s live streaming initiative in a somewhat new light, positioning video as just one element of online corporate venues designed for one-to-many messaging.

Even with its extended set of capabilities that push live video content creation more firmly into the hands of end users, Microsoft Stream retains some guardrails that help information technology departments maintain control over the extent to which live video proliferates within their organizations. Prospective users of one-to-many live video, for instance, will still need to obtain permission from their Office 365 administrator before being able to use the live streaming capabilities.

What I think: The public beta marks a significant step forward for Microsoft Stream. In its July announcement of live capabilities for Stream, Microsoft appeared to be painting a grandiose vision of the role that live streaming can play in enhancing the one-to-many meeting experience. From a streaming perspective, Microsoft seemed to be delivering a tantalizing dessert before putting the main course on the table.

The additional capabilities now evident in the public beta suggest that Microsoft has not forgotten about the traditional meat and potatoes of business webcasting. While the demo of integrating live video with a real-time Yammer feed is undeniably appealing, some executives just need to know that they can fire up a webcam, share some slides and begin delivering their message to a large group. The public beta demonstrates that Microsoft Stream is intent on supporting that type of straight-forward streaming task as well.

I see the steady unfolding of the live story for Stream as a positive development. The worst outcome for the industry overall would be for Microsoft to release a commercial version of its streaming platform that does not work well. Such an outcome could set the entire industry back years, with IT managers using any would-be failure as the proof needed to further slow the deployment of any vendor’s streaming capabilities within their organization. If Microsoft succeeds with Stream, it will create a rising tide that lifts the boats of all solution developers in the enterprise streaming segment.

It’s interesting to note the cadre of partners that are beginning to align themselves with Microsoft Stream. Already well known were the links between Microsoft and providers of networking solutions for streaming, such as Kollective, Hive and Ramp. In the public beta documentation, we also take note of partnerships with providers of encoding and content capture solutions, such as Switcher Studio, Haivision and Telestream’s Wirecast product line. Another item that’s worth at least a mention is Microsoft’s declaration that Stream works well (but is not “officially integrated”) with other encoding solutions, such as FFmpeg, VMix and the AWS Elemental Live offering from Amazon Web Services.

For now, Microsoft officials are noncommittal on their timeline for moving Stream to general availability. But the public beta of the service indicates that Microsoft still is proceeding full speed ahead into the enterprise streaming segment – a development that shortens the timeline for established providers of streaming platforms to decide on their strategy for dealing with Microsoft Stream’s move into the market. For many, it will boil down to a decision of whether to partner or compete with a video platform that appears to be emerging as an increasingly strategic initiative for Microsoft in the enterprise.