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Choosing Your Media Experience

Updated: July 8, 2014

One of the first steps in sharing video content is deciding what type of experience you want your clients to have. How will your customers be viewing the video content? Will they be connected to the internet? Will they be viewing your content on a computer or a hand-held device? Will your customers expect the video to be in HD? Questions such as these can help you give your customers the best possible experience.

Choosing Your Media Experience

There are four basic ways customers can access videos:

  1. Offline Viewing

  2. Progressive Download

  3. Streaming

  4. Adaptive Bitrate Streaming

To view a video offline a customer will download the entire video onto their computer or device. Videos tend to be quite large so it may take some time for the download to complete. The benefit of offline viewing is you do not need a network connection to view the video once it has been downloaded to your device. Progressive download requires that a customer is connected to the internet and allows them to start viewing the video before the entire video has been downloaded. Both of these approaches require that the device the customer is using to view the video has enough storage space to hold the entire video. Streaming technologies also require an internet connection, but they download a small piece of the video at a time and discard it once it has been displayed. This requires very little storage on the viewing device. The throughput of a network connection can vary, but customers still expect to be able to view videos regardless of network bandwidth. [Adaptive bitrate technologies allow video player applications to determine network conditions and select from among several bitrates. When network communication degrades, the client can select a lower bitrate allowing the player to continue to play the video at a lower video quality. As network conditions improve the client can switch to a higher bitrate with improved video quality. Azure Media Services supports two adaptive bitrate technologies. HTTP Live Streaming (HLS) is an adaptive bitrate technology created by Apple. Smooth Streaming is an adaptive bitrate technology created by Microsoft.

Another decision that needs to be made is what type of devices your customer will be using to view your videos. Media Services provides support for web browsers, smart phones, tablets, XBOX, set-top boxes, and connected TVs.

Web Browsers

Web browsers can be run on Windows PCs, Macintosh PCs, and Smart Phones. When running on PCs or Macintosh PCs you can take advantage of the large size screen and the large storage capacity. This allows you to stream higher quality videos. Windows PCs or Macintosh PCs can view videos delivered by Media Services by using a native application or an HTML-compatible web browser. Native applications can support Smooth Streaming, Apple HLS, Progressive Download, or offline viewing. HTML5 web pages support Progressive Download.

Smart Phones

Smart phones have small screens and smaller storage capacities. Streaming is the best choice for these devices. iPhones, Windows Phones, and Android phones are supported. iPhones and Android phones support Smooth Streaming and HLS. Windows Phones support Smooth Streaming.


Tablets have larger screens than smart phones, but till typically have smaller storage capacity. Streaming is the best choice for tablets. Tablets with larger storage capacities can also take advantage of offline viewing as well as Progressive Download.


XBox consoles have the benefit of large screens and larger storage capacity, which makes offline, progressive download, and streaming a good fit.

Set-top Boxes and Connected TVs

These devices also have large screen but minimal storage capacity, streaming is the best fit.

Supported Technologies by Device

The following table shows each type of device and the client technologies supported by  Media Services:


Device Technologies


Smooth Streaming, Apple HLS, Progressive Download

Windows Phone 8

Smooth Streaming

Windows RT

Smooth Streaming


Smooth Streaming, Progressive Download

Android Phones

Smooth Streaming and Apple HLS


Smooth Streaming


Apple HLS, Progressive Download

Set-top Box, Connected TV

Smooth Streaming, Apple HLS, Progressive Download

Next steps

The next step is to determine how to encode your content. For more information, see Encoding with Azure Media Services.

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