This morning Encoding.com is announcing support for multi-bit rate encoding and "stream segmenting," to let its customers comply with Apple's HTTP streaming spec for delivering video in iPhone and iPad apps. Last week, Encoding.com's president Jeff Malkin explained to me that several of its customers had reported that video apps they had submitted to Apple for approval in the App Store had been rejected because they didn't offer multiple bit rates. A post last week on TechCrunch provided more background on Apple's requirements.
Encoding.com now offers its customers 3 pre-set encoding rates with additional ones configurable on demand. Subsequent to encoding and splitting the video into multiple segments, Encoding.com packages up the files and delivers them with XML to the specified CDN for HTTP streaming from standard web servers. The goal of multiple bit rates is to let the video adjust to varying available bandwidth, which in turn helps smooth the user's experience. Jeff reported that CarDomain, the largest auto enthusiast site, is now using Encoding.com's multi-bit rate. CarDomain had seen its app rejected by Apple repeatedly due to "bandwidth usage limitations."
The backdrop here is that with more and more apps incorporating video, when WiFi isn't available, AT&T's 3G network comes under ever-increasing pressure. Just last week I posted on the sub-par experience several iPhone users I've surveyed have been having when trying to access the premium iPhone March Madness app on AT&T's 3G network (though to be fair a few others commented that their access has been ok). I had been surprised that Apple and AT&T felt confident enough in the latter's 3G network to approve this app in the first place, given the likely concurrence of viewing.
AT&T is obviously feeling more confident in its network - or at least in the buffer that Apple is creating by enforcing the multi-bit rate requirement - that more video-intensive apps seem to be passing through the approval process. In addition to the MMOD app, other examples include the new SlingPlayer app, announced last month, and Justin.tv's video app, which was unveiled last week. AT&T is likely trying to be more aggressive with these video apps as news continues to filter out that its iPhone exclusive will expire this year, opening up competition from other carriers.
Mobile video adoption is still well behind online, but the proliferation of mobile devices and apps that support video will no doubt accelerate usage. The next big device catalyst will of course be the iPad, coming this weekend. And as more ecosystem partners like Encoding.com provide the underlying tools to deliver seamless mobile video experiences, even more video-centric apps can be expected.
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