Microsoft's new service is like YouTube for the enterprise

Stream is designed to let users securely and easily upload and share video within a company

It's called Stream, and it's supposed to let people easily work together with one another on videos, and then share that content both inside and outside their company.

In the realm of consumer web services, video is ascending. Facebook has been emphasizing video posts on its popular social network, while YouTube is still going strong. Microsoft is trying to take some of that mojo and bring it to the business world with the launch of an open beta for Stream on Monday.

Stream allows users to log in to a video portal that lets them see all of the videos that are shared with them, and do things like subscribe to channels, search for subject matter they want to explore, and follow co-workers whose videos they want to see.

People who create videos can upload footage to the service by dragging and dropping files from their computers. Stream will handle the processing and let people add titles, descriptions, and even a caption file so that hearing-impaired viewers can read along with what's being said.

The service also has the ability to set sharing permissions that can let anyone in an organization view a video, or lock it down to just a small group of people. That way, it's possible for users to get feedback on a video from a small group before pushing it out to the wider company.

It's all powered by Azure Media Services, a cloud-based video streaming system that Microsoft has been building up to host a variety of products including public cloud video encoding services used for the Olympics and Skype Meeting Broadcast, a service that lets Skype for Business customers send out a video feed to thousands of viewers.

Microsoft has a smorgasbord of planned features on the roadmap for Stream. IT managers, for example, will have access to greater management controls for the service. Microsoft also plans to add additional intelligence to Stream's search, and let users of its nPowerApps software build applications that leverage its video viewing and capture capabilities.

Stream is similar to other business apps that Microsoft has recently launched, like Power BI, the company's data visualization and business intelligence tool, and PowerApps, a service that lets employees build mobile applications that use company data. Like those applications, Stream is a subscription service that lets businesses get a particular capability without buying into one of Microsoft’s big suites.

It will be interesting to see how Stream fits into Microsoft's overall product direction. The company already has several different tools for sharing video internally like SharePoint and Office 365 Video. Sudheer Sirivara, the general manager of Azure Media Services, said that Stream will replace Office 365 Video eventually.

It's still not clear what Microsoft's ultimate pricing model for Stream will be. Like PowerApps and Power BI, it's expected to have a free tier that offers users a smaller set of services, and at least one additional paid tier with additional functionality.

Because Stream will be replacing Office 365 Video, it seems likely that companies subscribing to Microsoft's productivity software suite will get at least some of those premium features for free, but it's hard to say just yet which those will be.

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Blair Hanley Frank

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