Apple Inc. is known for only live streaming its big product launch events to Apple devices using the Safari browser, but yesterday’s event started off broadcasting to an even more narrow audience than that – and it wasn’t by design.
Apple’s move to exclude Windows PCs and Android devices from being able to watch its events is often debated. But Apple’s desire to offer something exclusive to its own customers is at least an understandable approach, even if it is sacrificing the potential to win over new customers by sharing the stream more widely. Yet even Apple customers were unable to access the live stream yesterday, with the video either not loading in Apple’s web page that embedded the video, or an outright error message being displayed.
While many were frustrated by the error, there was no forthcoming explanation from Apple as to what the cause was. The stream continued to cut in and out throughout the iPhone 6 launch portion of the event and at times the video was accompanied by the Japanese translation audio track. But Dan Rayburn, the executive vice-president of StreamingMedia.com and principal analyst at Frost & Sullivan seems to have solved the mystery, and it looks like Apple is to blame.
While Apple was using Akamai’s content delivery network to broadcast the video (the same company that provided streaming video for the Olympics and the World Cup), it was not a capacity load issue on Akamai’s end, Rayburn explains. Analyzing the code on Apple’s web page that embedded the video show that a decision to embed code pushing live tweets from the event to the website prevented it from being cached by Akamai. Without the ability to cache, the performance of the video stream was either very degraded or caused an error in Safari.
Rayburn writes: “Without Akamai being able to cache Apple’s webpage, the performance to the videos took a huge hit. If Akamai can’t cache the website at the edge, then all requests have to go back to a central location, which defeats the whole purpose of using Akamai or any other CDNs to begin with. All CDNs architecture is based on being able to cache content, which in this case, Akamai clearly was not able to do.”
As for the translation audio that was heard for the first half-hour of the event, that was also an Apple blunder. Since Apple was encoding the stream from the Cupertino, Calif. location of the event, and it appears the primary and backup streams that were sent out were out of sync. The stream that did get sent contained the audio track and that’s what was broadcast from Akamai’s service.
The errors may be no more than a footnote after an event that saw Apple launch several major new products, including a device in a new category and a mobile payment service. But the irony in a tech manufacturer that’s trying to convince the world of the innovative brilliance of its products experiencing technical difficulties while doing so is clear.
It seems like that some Apple employees responsible for the streaming of the video will be soon looking for a new job.