Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer

iPhone LIVE Webcasting to UStream, Tiered iPhone Data Plans, Exaflood Rumors

I’ve been waiting for this for many months: UStream announced today the availability of a LIVE webcasting / webstreaming application for the iPhone GS and iPhone 3G in the iTunes Store. This is NOT an app which requires a jailbreak. The price? FREE. If you have an iPhone 3G and thought you couldn’t use it as videorecorder (without jailbreaking and using Cycorder, that is) think again. With this app, now you can not only webcast 320 x 240 video, you can also record and archive it online – FREE.

Webcast LIVE via Ustream with your iPhone GS!

According to today’s Ustream blog post:

This is the first live broadcaster ever available in the App Store, bringing the ability to broadcast live to anyone. From birthday parties, kids’ sports games and baby’s first steps to your latest vacation, this app enables anyone with an iPhone to share important moments with family, friends and more. The Ustream Live Broadcaster is a free app that enables live streaming on 3G or Wifi, and users can notify their Twitter communities when they start broadcasting, and interact with their viewers using chat or Twitter through Ustream’s Social Stream.

What the UStream blog post does NOT reveal is that this isn’t the FIRST live webcasting app for Ustream. Ustream software developers published an application available via Cydia over a year ago which permitted LIVE iPhone webcasting via Ustream, but the application was eventually removed. That application DID require a jailbreak and was not officially permitted / recognized by Apple. The removal of that jailbreak-required Ustream Live iPhone app seemed to coincide with the availability of the Ustream Recorder for iPhone 3GS. Coincidentally I wrote this past weekend about this app, including its BIG limitation of only permitting recording of videos less than 10 minutes in total length, in the post “Lessons learned using Ustream Recorder for iPhone.” I’ve been using UStream for webcasting a couple of years now, and I am THRILLED to see this functionality finally approved by Apple and available legitimately in the iTunes Store.

One of the things which surprises me most about this application is that it reportedly will work with the iPhone 3G, as well as the 3GS. I had thought only the 3GS supported video recording, and would therefore work with video streaming applications. Guess I was wrong.

Anyone following the approval and sometimes protected processes of getting applications approved by Apple for the iTunes Store should recognize the relevance of AT&T leader Ralph de la Vega’s comments today at a New York investor conference. According to CNET:

At an investor conference in New York on Wednesday, Ralph de la Vega, AT&T’s head of wireless, said the wireless operator is considering incentives to get consumers to reduce their data usage. De la Vega said 3 percent of smartphone users are consuming 40 percent of the network capacity. “We’re going to try to focus on making sure we give incentives to those small percentages to either reduce or modify their usage so they don’t crowd out the other customers in those same cell sites,” said de la Vega according to a transcript of the conference. “And you’ll see us address that more in detail.”

Availability of the UStream Live Broadcaster application and others like it, including “Knocking™ Live Video” which was approved December 1st by Apple, could be (from the perspective of some ISPs) harbingers of the exaflood. Read my September 2007 post, “Understanding Internet architecture, a need for smarter networks, TCP and UDP differences” and January 2008 post, “Content filtering and packet shaping going mainstream?” for more background on what the heck I’m talking about here. This not only has to do with tiered data plans for iPhone users, it also speaks to the heart of network neutrality debates and Bret Swanson’s January 2007 Wall Street Journal article, “The Coming Exaflood.” AT&T would likely love for you to read that article, BTW. This five minute YouTube video, “What is the Exaflood?” also gives a good overview of the issues at stake here.

Consider this quotation from the video:

A viewer watching a single HD movie over the Internet consumes as much bandwidth as a websurfer who loads 35,000 webpages. And the shift to Internet video isn’t happening gradually.

According to the credits at the end of this video, the source and sponsor of this message is the Internet Innovation Alliance. You can get an idea of who’s behind this organization and its purposes by reading the two paragraphs of Kim Hart’s October 27, 2009, post for The Hill, “Internet Innovation Alliance gets new co-chair:”

The Internet Innovation Alliance, a coalition of 53 businesses and non-profit groups aiming to increase broadband penetration and adoption, gets a new co-chairman today. David Sutphen, a former executive of Viacomm and the Recording Industry Association of America, will join current chairman Bruce Mehlman in running the coalition, which includes AT&T, OneEconomy and Connected Nation.

Until recently, Larry Irving was co-chair of the coalition, but he stepped down to take the role of vice president of Global Governmental Affairs at Hewlett Packard. Irving is a former White House technology advisor and is largely credited with coining the term “digital divide.”

It’s not hard to connect the dots and speculate the Internet Innovation Alliance is an advocacy group for the telecom agenda in network neutrality fights.

It was very interesting to get a better understanding of how telecommunications companies like AT&T view the network neutrality debate when I worked for AT&T from 2006 to 2008. Given this dire prediction of the impeding exaflood– which like global warming can be debated but is generally pretty clear in terms of its overall trends– I think the deployment of smart networks as well as tiered plans for wireless bandwidth as well as wired Internet service is inevitable.

I’m personally thrilled Apple has approved the Ustream Live Broadcaster app for the iPhone. iPhone 3G owners rejoice, this app can turn your previously “still-image only” iPhone into a 320 x 240 resolution video recorder and webcasting platform. I’m glum, however, to realize the release of apps like these will almost certainly lead to higher prices for “all you can eat bandwidth plans” from ISPs, or the elimination of unlimited data plans altogether. My AT&T 3G USB laptop card service plan has a 5 GB monthly quota, which I have never exceeded, but still reflects this overall approach from commercial ISPs to provide financial disincentives for high-bandwidth consuming applications.

Don’t get the idea there is consensus on the idea of an impending exaflood. Reference the April 2009 post, “The Exaflood Myth Just Won’t Die” and July 2009 post, “The Exaflood Isn’t Coming After All” for perspectives by exaflood rumor debunkers. Also, don’t get the impression that I think an exaflood is coming because every smartphone user on the planet is going to start webcasting. More will, but it’s unlikely webcasters are going to come close to video watchers in terms of bandwidth consumption. The trends are here, however, and what I am saying is we can connect dots between Apple’s recent approvals of live webcasting apps and AT&T’s recent announcement about forthcoming efforts to implement “incentives to get consumers to reduce their data usage.” I could be wrong, of course, but that’s how I read the tea leaves.

On a personal note, what does this Ustream Live Broadcaster app announcement mean for me and others interested in webcasting live from mobile locations?

Using a laptop (even a netbook) Ustreaming WITHOUT an application like this requires a setup similar to this one.

UStream setup at church

This can involve lugging around a LOT of equipment to setup.

Ready to webcast and podcast NECC 2009

Instead of all that equipment, a live Ustream broadcast with an iPhone can now look much cleaner and be MUCH easier to setup, looking something like this:

Guerilla Ustream Setup

Or this:

Mobile tripod rig for iPhone video recording

That device holding the iPhone in the above photos is a $20 GPS holder designed for cars, with a suction cup for fixed location stability. The main disadvantage of recording and webcasting from a mobile device / cell phone like an iPhone is audio quality. You need to be VERY close to the speaker, or have a very good PA system, so the audio can be heard clearly by the remote audience. Fortunately for my iPhone Ustream recorded videos last Saturday at the City Rescue Mission in Oklahoma City, the PA system was working great!

For more on webcasting with Ustream, see my presentation / workshop curriculum (and archived conference video) “Webcasting on a Shoestring.”

H/T to James Deaton for this news, via App Advice.

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