Over the past year, Microsoft has broadly touted their partnership with NBC and the video feeds they will provide for the Olympics. So on July 4th, I sat back and while watching their TV broadcast and went over to their website http://www.nbcolympics.com. The first thing you may notice upon visiting the website, is that their homepage is lackluster and that they are using the same drab Adobe Flash photo view. So where’s the cool new Microsoft Silverlight technology? Hopefully the following will be a primer of the site for you.
The easiest way to see the site in all it’s glory, is to click on one of the Video Spotlight links (look under the NBC Beijing 2008 logo for the Register and Login links, it’ll be to the right of that). The next thing you’ll notice is … yuck, the video page is plain and drab too. Definitely nothing to brag about, and nothing like what Microsoft demo’d. Well the key is to hit the “enhanced video” button below the video on the bottom right. Much better, right? Not really, but that’s because on the Standard view, you hopefully noticed the all caps word “BETA” at the top of the “Standard” view.
Now back to the Enhanced View. The first thing I noticed was that the video was not HD, somewhat disappointing but acceptable since we’re supposed to be able to see multiple video feeds at once, right? (Not! But hey it’s still in beta) The next thing I noticed was my CPU cycles started going crazy and the video hiccups, occasionally needing to rebuffer fairly often.
In order to access the more advanced features, click one of the buttons of the left (note that you can close out any of these features and continue watching your video by clicking the X at the top right).
If you click on the first, top left, button, the “Control Room”, they’re still working on it. However it tells us that you’ll be able to watch 4 live video feeds at the same time.
The second button is the “Olympic Sports”. You can select the sport you want to view and it’s associated videos. Yah! We can finally watch those Table Tennis matches!
The third button is the “Most Watched” videos. ‘nuff said
The fourth button is the “As Seen on TV” section. I’m guessing this is the recorded video for the TV broadcasts.
The fifth button is the “Highlights” area. So far, I really don’t like the organization. There needs to be some way to sort them all.
You’ll notice anytime when you select a video, you can see it PIP (Picture in Picture). This will put the video as a small video on video you were previously watching. You can then reposition the small video, and even swap it out so it’s the big video.
One of the best features they made was the “Share” button. But in order to access all of the “Share” features, click on the “Grab Channel” button. This will create a popup using Clearspring’s widget. If you don’t know about this widget, you weren’t the only one, as I am new to it as well. It features a huge array of ways to share the link. Everything from popular Facebook and MySpace to Twitter and Vista Sidebar Gadgets. I counted a total of 62 ways to share and bookmark the site.
Overall, I’m a bit disappointed in the site. But right now you can only view 2 video feeds at once. I suppose their fit and finish could have been much better. The user experience, just isn’t as good as what Silverlight is supposed to be able to deliver. What happened to the video fly ins? Isn’t this supposed to be a Flagship site for Silverlight?
Lastly, I am very concerned with performance. My laptop handled the two video feeds well enough, but the CPU was going nuts as well as the paging. Only time will tell as they flesh out the bugs and get the site out of BETA stage … in less than 35 days. I really hope they improve on the “cool” factor of the site. Cause right now, it ain’t got none.