Microsoft Stream, general availability today
After a near year-long wait, Microsoft announced the general availability of Microsoft Stream today PHOTO: Microsoft

In July 2016, Microsoft launched a preview release of an enterprise video service called Stream. At the time the company promised the service would become "the de facto video experience within Office 365," but we heard little of how that would happen — until today. 

Today, Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft announced the general availability of Stream and with it, added functionality including intelligent search. 

Acknowledging the Increasing Importance of Video

The intelligent search feature allows users to avoid sifting through entire videos to find relevant content by surfacing content and subject matter within a video.

Stream is more than just a sophisticated enterprise video streaming service. It is a full video management offering, with tight integration into Office and Office 365.

“Video has become an increasingly important medium in both the consumer and business realms. In the workplace, video is a key way to share information, educate and train employees, drive engagement and build culture," Vishal Sood, Office 365 Video and Stream group program manager told CMSWire.

“We are seeing two problems after running the [Office 365] video service for over three years now. The first is that not enough people take the effort to put [video] descriptions in so there is no way to digitally find video. Secondly, even if you do have video and you do finally manage to find it, it is impossible to find the right content."

Single Video Destination

Stream, Sood added, solves both these problems by providing a single destination for video management with built-in intelligence, deep integration across Office 365 and the IT management and security capabilities that businesses of all sizes require.

According to Sood, it provides a place where workers can contribute, search and discover all their company videos across all Office 365 digital workplace applications including SharePoint Online, Teams and Yammer. An integration with Office Groups means every group has access to its own video Stream.

“Customers are telling us several different things. What they are saying is that the leadership of organizations are starting to realize that video is a much more human way to connect with employees. And it doesn’t have to be an executive, it could even be team leaders. This is even more the case when you are geographically dispersed,” Sood added.

“This addresses the problems created by the changing workplace where people do things in their own time and their own location. So, this offers the human element combined with people consuming it at their own time and their own pace.”

The End of Office 365 Video

Where does Office 365 Video, which Microsoft launched in November 2014, fit in here? Sood said that over the coming months, the company will move Office 365 Video users across to Stream, which will underpin all the video collaboration capabilities in Office 365.

Microsoft indicated the transition from Office 365 Video to Microsoft Stream will happen in stages. The first moves will take place in the second half of 2017, giving users time to acclimatize. Once the migration into Stream completes, Microsoft will shut down the Office 365 Video portal and iOS app.

Microsoft also assured users it will handle the transfer of all videos, channels and permissions from Office 365 Video into Stream and that Office 365 Video embed codes and links to videos will still work, redirecting to the same content in Stream.

Bringing Intelligence to Video

While other video management solutions offer similar capabilities as Stream, what sets Stream apart is the intelligence that Microsoft added for the general release.

“We also have a search option. This is one of the areas where we are pushing intelligent capabilities. With the intelligent features, Stream will be able to carry out deep search. This means taking all the information in the video, converting it into text and making it searchable. The search can find terms when they are mentioned in video as well as who is speaking in the video,” Sood said.

“On top of this, soon after the general release, we will launch capabilities to start tagging people in video so it will be possible to find people wherever in the video they appear and the machine will be able to find people in the future after learning.”

Three other new features worth noting:

  • Speech-to-text transcribed audio: The system transcribes audio into text, making it possible to conduct term-based searches across videos
  • Face detection: Allows searches for specific people within the video, noting each place in a clickable timeline 
  • Linked timecode: Displayed timecodes link to text transcripts or table of contents to allow for easier navigation.

A Glimpse of the Stream Roadmap

Microsoft is planning more updates to Stream, even as it releases it to general availability. Among those features are:

  • Videos and channels showing up in Delve and SharePoint Enterprise Search, SharePoint Home and SharePoint mobile apps
  • REST APIs to connect outside the Microsoft ecosystem
  • Video view metrics

“In terms of the roadmap, there are many things we want to do. We want to bring it beyond the Microsoft ecosystem so there are APIs, which we will be talking about soon after the general release. The second thing we need to have is live streaming support which we don’t have yet so we need to look at how to do that in a very seamless way so people can do it,” Sood added.

Stream will be available to customers who already use Office 365 for video, as well as those on Office 365 Enterprise and Education plans.