BitGravity Counts on HD
Wu, who left venture firm ComVentures last year to singlehandedly fund BitGravity, says his company's secret lies in proprietary streaming and caching software, allowing quick delivery of large video streams. And the technology had better be good if the company is to succeed, because Wu says BitGravity doesn't intend to compete on price.
"Our architecture is different than everybody else's," Wu says. "Our time to deliver the first packet is faster than our competition, and our throughput is much higher, so we can deliver things like hi-def."
Consequently, Wu claims, BitGravity will deliver HD video to the PC with very little delay and with no interruptions. Using a five-minute video as a demo (BitGravity isn't distributing HD video just yet), Wu shows the network launching an HD video after just a few milliseconds of buffering. From there, it's possible to jump ahead or back within the video using a slider, again with playback beginning after a very brief delay, without pixelization.
Few media companies outside the porn industry deliver HD video via the public Internet, says Bob Rizika, CEO of the streaming server startup Blackwave Inc. The high delivery costs often outweigh any earnings from selling the video, he says. Still, a few services, like Amazon Unbox and Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) Xbox Live, have begun offering HD movies. (See Microsoft to Sell VOD on XBox.)
Wu says HD is important because the success of video on the Internet depends on comparisons to TV: "If TV can do HD, the Internet better be able to do HD; if TV can do instant channel change, the Internet better be able to do instant channel change."
Wu says the company has snared several customers (he won't name names) since last May and is in talks with some very large media firms.
BitGravity will compete with CDN market leader Akamai Technologies Inc. (Nasdaq: AKAM) and contenders including Limelight Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: LLNW), Level 3 Communications Inc. (NYSE: LVLT), and Internap Network Services Corp. (Nasdaq: INAP). (See Akamai Shows No Jitter in Q4, How Likely Is a Limelight IPO?, Internap Charges Into CDNs, and Level 3's CDN Story Rides on Fiber.)
Those names aren't necessarily strangers to HD. "We are working, and have worked, with a variety of customers to deliver HD video including NHL games in partnership with Comcast, the State of the Union Address (working with Gannett as a customer), and Instant Media, to name a few," an Akamai spokesman says.
Limelight announced in 2005 it would be the CDN for Microsoft's Xbox Live service, but it remains unclear whether Xbox Live HD movies are being delivered over the Limelight network. Limelight didn't return calls for this story.
Wu won't specify how many employees work in BitGravity's Burlingame, Calif., offices, saying only that it's fewer than 50.
BitGravity has network access points (NAPs) in North America, South America, and Europe, with agreements with numerous long-haul carriers to move its clients' data out to those servers as quickly as possible. BitGravity lacks a NAP in Asia, but the setup provides good performance there, Wu claims.
— Mark Sullivan, Reporter, Light Reading