One of the features overlooked in iPhone OS 3.0 was support for the HTTP streaming protocol, which uses adaptive bitrates.
Folks at NewTeeVee have just reported that Apple will produce its first-ever live event streamed to the iPhone: a concert by the electronica band Underworld, which will make use of this HTTP streaming protocol so that users can watch it directly in iPhone's embedded QuickTime player rather than needing an iPhone app.
Adaptive Bitrate Streaming is a technique of detecting a watcher’s
bandwidth and CPU capabilities in real time and then adjusting the
quality of a video stream.
According to Liz Gannes of NewTeeVee:
The intent of the technology is to optimize for difficult environments
— like when a lot of people want to watch something at the same time,
as in a live event, or when a watcher’s bandwidth cuts out, which often
happens on a mobile phone. So tonight’s show should be a good test.
If you visit Akamai's site, you will notice that there are several live video feeds including NASA TV. The user experience was very good both over Wi-Fi and over 3G.
According to Gannes, Apple has kept the event quiet as it doesn’t want to overwhelm the AT&T network.
Apple's move to use HTTP for adaptive streaming is interesting. The embedded support for HTTP streaming protocol in the iPhone provides a route around limitations imposed by AT&T on Apple due to concerns of bandwidth consumption over its 3G network. It will enable companies to deliver their content to iPhone users over the web without any restrictions at
optimal quality. It means that they don't have to develop branded iPhone apps, which will ensure that AT&T does not get a chance to impose any restrictions like it did for SlingPlayer Mobile for iPhone, which works only over Wi-Fi.
If you are interested in finding out more on how the HTTP Adaptive Bitrate Streaming works then you can checkout this post by Gannes.
Please don't forget to watch Underworld's concert on your iPhone and drop us a line in the comments to give us your feedback on the user experience.