Sent: 1/7/97; 12:49:34 PM
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Preston Holmes)
These are some completely unsolicited observations on Apple's much touted webcast of Macworld keynotes.
The promise is exciting, I was unable to go to MacWorld, but I could see the keynote at the same time as everyone else - not on CNN on but on the Internet using Quicktime TV. This to me is one of the most compelling technologies of the internet, so many events will never be carried on mainstream telivision, but they can still be seen by those who aren't able to be there in person.
On Monday I downloaded and configured the various client tools needed for the webcasts, I already had RealAudio 3, but I hadn't used Apple's Quicktime TV (beta) client. I downloaded it and connected to their test site - a live streaming audio/video quicktime movie, very cool - I started getting excited about this.
Half an hour before Amelio's keynote I go back to live.apple.com
Completely unresponsive, luckily I still had the Quicktime Conferencing "calling card" that is like an alias to a broadcast... That host was not responding either.
11:45 live.apple.com appears to have crashed outright, a minute or two later it comes back online and I was able to get a couple pages before it went into hibernation again.
I then tried to connect to the non-apple mirror of the quicktime broadcast, Connection worked, the window redrew to the size of the broadcast and then a dialog 'Your connection has unfortunately failed. The party you have connected to has chosen incompatable audio settings. This is not your fault.' I loved the not your fault part, at least the client authors had sense of compasion (I also got this same alert from the apple broadcast once).
I went back to live.apple.com to try and get the address of the realaudio server. RealAudio has been around a lot longer, and has been proven in large scale webcasts. But live.apple.com never did respond. Its now 12:40 and I'm ready to give up - oh well, guess I'll just have to read the summaries like everyone else who couldn't be there in person.
Quicktime TV is beta technology, so I'm not all that dissapointed in it. If they were using MacOS servers for the reflectors, I can understand the failure - the MacOS just isn't up to this kind of multithreaded, multimedia streaming. But Apple doesn't have an excuse for letting live.apple.com get so short on resources - high load website uptime is not cutting edge, and Apple certainly can't claim lack of boxes to throw at the problem. Part of this is that pointers to the webcast were all over the place on the home page, if they plan on making a big deal about it, they should plan on backing up the PR with some horsepower. At a minimum, the website could have kept people informed as to the overload of the streaming technologies.
Also my internet connection is at UCSD with a well outfitted Powermac, connected through the local supercomputer center to the original internet backbone, I was able to get good responses from many other sites during this time, including other Apple servers. These were not problems at my end, or regional Internet routing problems.
Webcasting has huge potential, Quicktime is fast becoming one of Apple's main hallmarks - webcasting and quicktime are a perfect combo, but this event was a dismal failure from a technological point of view - webcasts have to scale, a 1:1 server/client demo may look cool, but it doesn't deliver on the promise of internet broadcasting.
Hopefully later events won't be so busy, or Apple will put some more resources behind the event.
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