SPC14: A Look Into the New Video Portal Coming to Office 365

UPDATE: Here is the link to the presentation on Channel 9

In Press Play! Video as a First-Class Citizen, members of the Office team walked us through the exciting new Video Portal. With video now being a requirement in business to communicate, educate, and collaborate, it was high time Microsoft added a feature-rich way to use and create a video for business purposes. Playing off the Office Graph concept, the video portal integrates seamlessly with your O365 experience; same login, same permissions, same security, even that whole Yammer following you around the thing I wrote about from the keynote. This portal is designed to fit right in and be useful as soon as you stand it up. It has all the features you would expect from a (more or less) YouTube competitor. There is extensive tagging, groups, channels, recommended videos, etc. all with the back end of O365. That means you also get all the permissions, security, and collaboration functions you have come to know and love in your SharePoint/O365 experience.  It is also designed to be simple to configure and use. There are not a million options buried in menus, just the basics like creating channels, managing permissions, and picking some colors. It comes with an O365 help channel pre-built so you can watch Microsoft videos on all the new features in your online environment. It comes with an iOS app as well. The app allows you to view content and even capture video on your phone right from the app. Oh yeah, you know that Oslo thing you have undoubtedly been hearing about? Yeah, it incorporates that too.

Now, you might be asking yourself, how does this all look on the back end? Well, it’s based in SharePoint and has all the architecture you would hope for from SharePoint Online. The video-heavy lifting comes from Azure Media Services, the same ones used to stream the last two Olympics. When you upload a video to the portal, it gets sent off to Azure for all the transcoding. It comes back as every file type needed to run smoothly across any platform, computer, or mobile. It has adaptive streaming (think Netflix and Hulu) which automatically sends the right version based on your device and network speed. The best part is that it does it all for you: You just upload, wait for it to process, and enjoy.

I know what you’re thinking. Ned, this is all positive, but there has to be something that’s not great about this. Well, you’re right. Those files that come back from Azure? Yeah, they’re H.264 and max out at 720p. As a digital media professional, I am not impressed there. To be fair though, the videos will look good, and the compromise in image quality will help ensure the videos stream smoothly, but it is kind of like having ketchup when you really want BBQ sauce.