HTTP Adaptive Streams Come to Mobiles Before Desktops, Looks Incredible

There aren’t many times where an exciting new web technology comes to handheld devices before it hits the traditional desktops and notebooks, but this is one of those times. Over at NewTeeVee, Liz shows off a video that demonstrates Apple’s HTTP adaptive video streaming. Support for the feature is already in the new iPhone 3.0 software and it offers two key benefits.

For starters, you don’t need to either download or pay for an application to view HTTP video streams, since in theory you can view it in a browser. And since the data is sent over HTTP with other traditional web traffic, you don’t need to punch a firewall hole to consume the content. Using HTTP also allows content to be broken down into viewable chunks so the provider can send the most optimized chunk to viewers at any given time. That’s where the “adaptive” part optimizes video playback based on the speed of your connection. In the video demo, you can see this happen over a 3G connection: the video starts out a little fuzzy, but eventually cleans itself up rather nicely.

iPhone owners can view the same demos at to see live streams of NASA TV or Live, plus on-demand segments of Storm Chasers, Deadliest Catch and several other channels. I tested a few videos on my iPhone 3GS and the quality was outstanding. In some ways, it rivals and may even exceed the great experiences I’ve had with SlingPlayer Mobile, which also optimizes the media stream. Here’s a screen-cap from my phone to give you an idea of what I’m seeing once the optimization takes place:


As I alluded to above, this functionality is on mobiles first. Support for HTTP adaptive streaming is due to arrive in Apple’s next operating system update, called Snow Leopard, which ships in September of this year.