Today at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show in Las Vegas -- our dearest little spot in the West -- Microsoft will unwrap a new media asset management offering built on their SharePoint (MOSS) 2007 platform.
The new Interactive Media Manager product is (perhaps predictably) hailed by the company as a next-generation content management solution. It combines digital work flows and media application integration in a collaborative environment built on SharePoint's core strengths.NAB 2007 is this years instance of the annual convention of the National Association of Broadcasters. The event is lauded as the essential destination for electronic media executives, and brings together the entire spectrum of media -- television and radio broadcast, audio and video production and latest technologies from all corners of the globe.
While the phrase "Interactive Media Manager" is most often associate with a position filled by a living, breathing human being, Microsoft aims to automate and simplify a number of the tedious processes associated with bringing digital video through it's various workflows and finally to production status.
"As the digital era continues to alter the industry, we're seeing the walls between previously disparate functions beginning to crumble as the strengths of IT are increasingly relevant and needed in the creative side of the house," said Gabriele Di Piazza, managing director for Media & Entertainment in the Communications Sector at Microsoft. "Interactive Media Manager is a solution that spans those two formerly distinct worlds, automating the gaps that exist in the work flow process to create a fluid handoff between tasks and individuals."
Interactive Media Manager delivers a Web-based client UI driving off a host of server-based technologies, with SharePoint 2007 sitting at the core. The solution provides tools for building complex work flows, monitoring the performance of those work flows and facilitating the reviews and approvals in the work flow process by pushing both tasks and forms directly to participants' Outlook inboxes and/or delivering event data via XML (RSS) feeds.
The product is a poster child for the integration of Microsoft's latest version of server technologies, which in part have been bundled into a somewhat clumsy packaging and labeled as .NET 3.0. The product leverages Microsoft components such as Windows Workflow Foundation (WWF), Windows Communication Foundation (WCF), InfoPath's XML forms and the recently announced Microsoft Silverlight, which was previously known as the Windows Presentation Foundation Everywhere (WPF/E).
The user interface bit of the offering is comprised of a series of customizable SharePoint web parts. These include:
* Media Library provides a view into the digital asset management library and assets are displayed as thumbnails.
* Media Viewer displays information such as annotations and time codes in Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers format and offers built-in playback controls.
* Media Annotator supports group collaboration on media assets in the workflow via video annotations, digital inking and discussions.
* Media Import facilitates the upload of media files and automatically triggers related work flows.
* Media Cart provides storage buckets where individual users can group media assets that they wish to edit themselves or that they want to initiate workflows on.
In their new spirit of openness Microsoft's Interactive Media Manager supports not only Internet Explorer as a client app, but also both Firefox and Safari. How very Web 2.0 gents.
Despite its timely arrival, the announcement appears to be more than typical trade show vaporware. Microsoft has already trotted out a gaggle of marquee clients, including McCann Worldwide, Starz Entertainment, SyncCast and Ascent Media Group. Additionally, they claim strong integration positioning with DAM industry players such as Open Text's Artesia Digital Media Group and Telestream Inc.
This move follows six or so years of DAM vendor acquisitions by Enterprise CMS vendors. The list includes Bulldog by Documentum (and then Documentum by EMC), Ancept by Stellent (and then Stellent by Oracle), Artesia by Open Text and even Apple jumped in the game, grabbing Proximity Group.
So the competition is in no way thin on the ground, but looking at this from a different perspective, the move does begin to make good on Ballmer's ebullient promise that SharePoint (MOSS) 2007 is in fact Microsoft's new operating system.
The product is slated to be a commercial offering, yet pricing and additional details have yet to be publicly announced.
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