ComVu: TV studio in a browser
Say so long to the giant news station video van: ComVu puts a live TV studio in your laptop.
I tried livestreaming a panel I was participating in last night using ComVu's new (and not yet public) Windows streaming service. I think it was a technical success--the stream worked, but the software gave me neither viewer numbers nor a way to chat with people. Slightly disappointed in the lack of feedback, I sat down with ComVu CEO William Mutual this morning to learn more about the company and its products.
While Mutual vaguely acknowledged that he plans to add user interactivity (chat) to his service, he doesn't think his product should be lumped in with the current popular livestreaming hotness, UStream. He's trying to build a more robust and profitable business by providing cutting-edge technology solutions as well as services of interest to people and companies that will actually pay for them.
ComVu's technology efforts are visible in its mobile phone streaming product, PocketCaster. I couldn't get the PocketCaster streamer to work on my Blackjack phone, due to (Mutual said) an unfortunate interaction with Cingular's proxy service and my Blackjack's BIOS. But I did get it working on a Nokia phone, and during our meeting Mutual showed me streaming working from several Microsoft- and Symbian-powered phones. He says that Nokia's latest phone, the N95, will even send 640x480 streaming video at 30 frames per second, "If it's right next to a cell tower."
ComVu also has a very cool livestreaming control console, called the Mobile Video Studio. This product lets streaming directors monitor video feeds from a variety of live sources as well as a library of archive videos, and select which feed they want to push out to users. It also interleaves location data into the stream (from GPS-equipped phones or other location-finding technologies, including selecting your location from a menu if all else fails) and displays to viewers, on a Google map next to the video, where video is coming from. This adds a whole new level of context, and I am really looking forward to seeing it used in newscasts. If you have a ComVu account, this link will take you to a live demo of the Studio service, where you can experiment with the controls but not add video sources. (Be advised that I could only get it to work properly in Internet Explorer.)
ComVu's mobile streaming service, PocketCaster, is in free and open beta right now, but will eventually be a paid service, starting at $10 a month for 80 hours of streaming with bandwidth limits. Prices will go up for enterprise-class products such as the Mobile Video Studio. The company is also working with Microsoft's new Silverlight Flash-busting technology, but Mutual wouldn't say more about it. I'll be at Microsoft's Mix conference next week and will have more info about Silverlight from there.