This week I attended an event promoting Microsoft's Interactive Media Manager in New York City. IMM is a new product, announced in April of 2007, that seeks to be the bridge between digital content production and IT business systems and processes. It is based on SharePoint, and this event promised to be an "inside look" at the product. I work with clients who have media storage needs, and I wanted to know if this product would be appropriate for them.
The event turned out to be a big pitch to media companies (the audience included HBO, Lifetime, Time Warner, Disney, and Simon & Schuster among others) to consider Microsoft as a content distributor ("You can view channels on the XBox, and download movies or TV shows through the XBox 360 platform... and did we mention Silverlight?") The vision statement ran long and the demo was cut short. The technical resource did not stick around after the event to answer questions. However, I did learn the following:
IMM includes four extensions to MOSS:
- New media-oriented web parts (see below) for media management and production.
- A new metadata model for video asset support (based on RDF)
- New workflow activities (based on Windows Workflow Foundation) to manage media scenarios
- New WCF connectors for third-party media applications.
The five new webparts are (slightly more detailed descriptions can be found in the downloadable brochure):
- Media Library - like a SharePoint image library, where media assets are displayed as thumbnails.
- Media Viewer - playback app that can be connected to the library to play the selected file
- Media Annotator - allows frame-by-frame annotations by multiple collaborators
- Media Import - for upload of media files, with associated workflows
- Media Cart - Individualized area for storing media assets
On a break I asked the technical resource if these web parts are available throughout the portal or corporate Intranet if the client already has MOSS; he said they are released as features and therefore available on any Portal page. This was as much technical information as I was able to get, and I left with more questions than answers, such as:
- Does deployment of IMM automatically update the Advanced Search properties with additional media iFilters?
- How is IMM deployed if a client already has a MOSS portal? Does it need to work with a certain version of MOSS (i.e. Standard vs. Enterprise) or does it work with all versions?
- If a client doesn't already have a MOSS portal, does a full MOSS installation need to be done in order to have IMM? (I'm thinking Yes.)
- During the demo this technical resource said that the metadata is not yet security-trimmed but that this is planned for the next release of IMM. Really? Does that apply to all MOSS metadata or just to the IMM components?
- What does it cost?
The audience raised a lot of questions ("Will our production people be able to design workflows, or do we need a developer?" "What support is available for existing media management applications or home-grown systems?") and the answers were not satisfactory in every case. The upshot for me was that I wouldn't feel comfortable recommending this system to a client until I could get my hands on it, and although Microsoft has targeted release of Version 1 for Q2 of 2007, they were saying at the same time, "Don't hold us to that."