Friday, November 17, 2006

Orb MyCasting - Confused! Complicated!

Orb Networks recently released their free MyCasting service, that allow you to watch videos from Youtube, Google, Daily Motion etc on your Mobile or PDA or any device that has a browser and media player. 

Orb MyCasting makes it possible for people to organize, enjoy and share their videos, music, photos, TV, documents and other digital media when (time) and where (place) they want it, using the devices – be it a mobile phone, PDA or laptop – that they already own. Source: RELEASE: Orb Networks takes YouTube, other sites, mobile with Orb MyCasting - FierceWireless

I was quite thrilled to know about the service. The service optimizes the content for your mobile for better experience and data transfer. But the architecture of the whole service is quite baffling. I didn't quite understand why?

For the service to work, you must have an 'Always On' PC at home. It must be always ON and connected to internet. Infact, your PC will act as your broadcasting station, in other words manage and create media streams for you. When you access your media channel from your mobile, infact you are connected to your PC at home to receive the stream.  Your PC at home acts a webserver for media stream. Now this is not quite impressive. I do not have a rugged desktop. I have run my $1400 laptop non-stop to use the service. Doesn't make sense to me.

Orb Networks should have provided a network based solution instead. It would have been much cleaner and simpler to use. No installations required. You login and manage what kind of channels you need. Streams are created on the server and when you access you receive the content from the server. Obviously, on the server side it is not required to duplicate streams or content. The same stream can be delivered to more than one user. It looks like, Orb Networks is scared of bandwidth costs it might end up paying.  Or is there any other not-so-obvious engineering reason to adopt this kind of an adhoc architecture.

I have another question, whether it is legal to take a video on MyTube and convert it into a different format (size,bitrate,...) to fit into mobile devices?

(Updated again on 11/19/2006) : While Orb opens up a great new opportunity to access all the media that you already own on your Mobile phone, the solution relies on the fact that “you must run your home PC always ON”. This is a serious trouble for people who only own a laptop or two. And if you want to share a clip on your channel with your collegues/friends, your laptop will either die due to the traffic or you can not work on it while the clip is being accessed.

Watching video clips is my main reason to use Orb. I believe if YouTube opens up for Mobiles with optimized content, I don’t see value in Orb Mycasting. Music and Photos streaming to your Mobile, is not for me. I don’t see any need for it. If some one want to listen to music on their mobile, by streaming, god bless the cellphone and its battery.

[tags]orb, mycasting, mobile-applications, mobile-video, mobile-life-style, cellular-life-style[/tags]

2 comments:

  1. hey murali!

    much like Skype - which turns your PC into your personal telephony system - Orb turns your PC into your personal broadcasting system, "mycasting" ALL your content to you wherever you have the Web

    when you think about your home music collection, the huge convenience of a system that uses what you have already - instead of asking you to upload content to an online service - becomes really clear

    all the music - or home videos, or recorded TV shows, or photos, or downloaded podcasts - that users already have on their hard drives is INSTANTLY available to them EVERYWHERE they have the Web once the small piece of Orb freeware's installed on that PC; compare that with the time (never mind the privacy issues) involved in uploading massive quantities of your personal content to someone else's server

    and: serverside solutions for economic reasons have to make broadcast choices about what format/bitrate combinations they can afford to stream. which means, for your own stuff, you might very well either not be able to stream your content at all to your mobile device at any given moment, or that it might be downsampled needlessly. since Orb uses your OWN infrastructure to do the transcoding, however, your content gets mycasted to you by your own PC at the best quality you can handle at the moment you want it

    the new wifi-enabled phones are a great example of how cool this is: when i'm on my nokia N80 and move from my somewhat-weak EDGE connection on Cingular to a full multi-meg WiFi hotspot, i want to take full advantage of it for my streamed TV, youtube videos, etc.!

    and remember that all this restreaming is done on the fly, without the permanent creation or download of alternate copies, so that whatever you can enjoy at home, you can enjoy everywhere; last thing you want is to have to download files to your mobile device when all you want to do is show the person standing next to you a hilarious youtube clip

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  2. Thank you very much Ian for your comments. The idea is very powerful. What I am not comfortable is running my own server on my computer.

    1. Always ON computer and Always Connected to the Network are not some things that can be taken for granted, atleast in my case.

    2. If one or more family members are using the service, I don't think I will be able to use my computer for my work or whatever I am doing. So, If I ever want it, I am not running on my laptop definitely. Alternately, I can buy a server, $200-$300 barebones PC to run it. Or a Sling box (with storage) approach would be quite wel
    come too.

    3.It will be great for listening to music or watch videos on my Mobile, for myself. But if I want to share my videos/music collections with friends, I still prefer a network based solution. I don't think any desktop computer can take the beating of 10+ simulataneous users.

    4. A little lack of quality in Server side solution is okay for me. When YouTube converts my video to flash, it looses quality. But that is still pretty good to me. I am not quite bothered if there are 40000 hits in a week or 100 hits a week.

    5. Uploading is just one time activity.I am okay to run my laptop for 24 hours to upload and then an hour now and then. Still better than running it all the time.

    Privacy is a serious issue, though.

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