Trend: Technologies to help consumers download huge video files are being rolled out. The winners will be very profitable.
Cringely discusses the technologies and companies that may be bringing television and movie downloads to broadband subscribers. Excerpts below. (Warning: techie language.)
IP is the future of global communication on all levels. But adding video to the mix is so bandwidth intensive that using current techniques will push back total IP conversion for decades.
Still, there is incredible incentive to push this digital conversion and a heck of a lot of money on the line. So we'll just have to cheat.
And that brings me back to the peer-to-peer schemes I discussed a little last week. By using excess upload capacity of client nodes as repeaters, putting together 64 gigabits-per-second actually isn't that hard.
Last week, I wrote about Seattle-based Grid Networks, which has many of the networking components in place. Grid, which already has more than 100,000 active nodes, can reliably deliver massive amounts of data at bit rates as high as clients are capable of receiving. That's a key differentiator -- being able to aggregate bandwidth to deliver not only lots of data, but lots of data FAST. Grid also appears to be the only major player in this new space that plans to offer Windows, Linux, and Macintosh clients, while most of the other services seem to be Windows-only.
Another emerging player in this space is Network Foundation Technologies (NFT), a startup in Louisiana that is taking the very non-Bit Torrent approach of using a binary-tree (one parent) distribution model rather than Bit Torrent (or Grid's) multi-parent distribution. Binary-tree distribution means that every node in the network has a single parent and no more than two children, which limits the total available bandwidth per connection. So where Grid and Bit Torrent can dump a lot of data very quickly on a given client, NFT is limited to half the capacity of the node above it in the distribution tree. While this would appear to be a disadvantage, there is one very good reason for doing it: NFT's binary distribution trees support live video.
The merging Big Kahuna in commercial peer-to-peer seems to be Wurld Media's Peer Impact, which has similar technology to Grid Networks (though Windows-only), but where Grid is a networking company, Peer Impact is a media company and actually has a pretty compelling business model.
Peer Impact is up and running right now, though most of what the network has available isn't TV or music, but video games. About 1,100 video games from most major publishers except Electronic Arts are available through Peer Impact. The network has also announced it is adding video content and movies from NBC/Universal, and says it will have all major film studios and all major record companies onboard by the end of this year.
Peer Impact is similar to iTunes in that Apple sets the price ($0.99 per song and $1.99 per show). Where Peer Impact is different is in its use of Microsoft DRM, Windows client software, and a peer-to-peer distribution scheme. But where the company is REALLY different is in its relationship to participating nodes: Peer Impact pays users.