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Microsoft Stream marks major push in business video

Microsoft Stream, backed by the vendor's marketing power, is expected to draw more enterprises into the business video market.

Microsoft's introduction of a business video service is likely the beginning of a major marketing campaign that will draw tech buyers' attention to the potential benefits of video in the workplace.

Launched last week, Microsoft Stream shows a commitment to business video and its growth potential in the enterprise unified communications and collaboration market, analysts said. Microsoft is sure to promote the technology through its massive marketing machine, which is expected to draw attention to Microsoft and other video platform providers.

Tech buyers serious about a technology seldom consider only a single vendor. Video service providers that could benefit from Microsoft's push include Panopto, Qumu, Kaltura and Kollective.

"It's a time in the market where Microsoft's commitment to this space is going to be a rising tide that lifts all boats," said Steve Vonder Haar, an analyst at Wainhouse Research, based in Arlington, Texas. "We've been waiting for a tech giant to make a commitment to developing a platform approach to supporting streaming [video] capabilities for more than a decade."

In 2015, sales of hardware, software and networking related to streaming business video topped $1 billion, according to Wainhouse. Sales this year are growing by 20%, and "we're just scratching the surface of where this could go," Vonder Haar said.

The preview of Microsoft Stream shows a cloud-based YouTube-like service that businesses would use as an internal company platform for uploading, sharing and tagging video. Microsoft plans to add capabilities for integrating Stream into some of the company's other products, including PowerApps, a platform for building custom mobile or web apps; Flow, a tool for creating automated workflows; and SharePoint, a cloud-based or on-premises service for creating team collaboration websites.

Microsoft plans to replace Office 365 Video with Stream, making the latter the "de facto experience in Office 365," the company said. Before that happens, however, Microsoft has lots of work ahead.

Making Microsoft Stream enterprise-ready

Making Microsoft Stream competitive with other video platforms will require adding many more capabilities, such as search by audio transcript or face detection, management tools for controlling video access, and live video streaming. Those features are expected to come in time, as Microsoft attempts to provide a complete platform.

"The more tools a customer can get in a single platform versus piecing together multiple niche products, the better," said Alan Lepofsky, an analyst at Constellation Research, based in Cupertino, Calif. "As video becomes more and more mainstream for training and education, information sharing, Q&A and marketing, customers will look for vendors to have a strong integrated solution."

Analysts expect Microsoft to sell Stream as a cloud-based service, which would place it in line with other software in the Office 365 suite. As a result, Microsoft will likely partner with content delivery networks to reach an enterprise-level quality of service, said Irwin Lazar, an analyst at Nemertes Research, based in Mokena, Ill.

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