I was delighted to moderate a panel discussion at Streaming Media East yesterday entitled, Enabling Open-Architecture-Based IPTV Services. This is an eclectic subject — even for me.
My fellow panelists included Peggy Dau, Solution Portfolio Manager Digital Content Distribution NSP Broadband & Media Solutions for HP; Hamilton Altstatt, Director Research & Development, Idealab and the redoubtable, Tim Halle, overlord of the Project for Open Source Media.
Before we got started, I asked the audience a simple question: “How many people in this room can tell me the difference between streaming media and IPTV?” Astonishingly, no one raised their hand. So I asked how many people were in the streaming media business and everyone raised their hand. Gulp!
Instead of telling you all about our fabulous panel discussion let me just give you the ammo you need to enter into a discussion about the topic. Here is a super-short, cocktail conversation, you-can-sound-smart-in-a-meeting, lesson on the subtle and not so subtle differences between Streaming Media and IPTV.
Streaming Media, in the most common parlance, refers to a piece of content which lives on a server and is delivered over the Internet to a media player which usually (but not always) runs on a personal computer. You can also stream content to a cell phone with a media player in it or any other device that happens to have a compatible media player like a set top box (cable box, satellite or TiVo), a personal digital assistant (PDA) or even a video game console. Streaming Media applications are usually interactive because they are usually found on your computer.
IPTV (Internet Protocol Television), in common parlance, refers to a piece of content which lives on a server and is delivered over the Internet to a set top box (media center computer, cable box, satellite, TiVo or special as-yet-to-be-designed box from your telephone company) which is running a proprietary piece of software that works very much like a media player (because it is one) but makes you think you are watching television. Why? Because you watch the media play on your television set! One other feature is that, by definition, IPTV makes your television set (or whatever monitor your choose to use) interactive – since the Internet provides a two-way connection. This is unique for television sets although it is taken for granted on your computer.
So … Streaming Media is IPTV that you watch on your computer and, IPTV is Streaming Media you watch on your television set. Streaming Media has three very popular formats: Windows Media Player, Real Media Player and Apple Quicktime. There are many, many others. IPTV also has many formats including, oddly enough Windows Media Player, but the jury is still out on which format(s) will dominate the landscape. Do not use the word Codec interchangeably with the word format. Most media players have the capacity to utilize many different codecs. And, just to complete the thought, most media players are capable of playing video back at many different resolutions.
So there you have it. A non-technical definition with plenty of smart-sounding words to use in your next advanced media meeting or while you’re tossing back a cold one with your friends.