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A look at Office 365 video

A look at Office 365 video

by: Brian Prigge

When Microsoft announced Office 365 Video at the last SharePoint conference, many folks were impressed by the demos, both in the keynote as well as the breakout sessions. At the time, it was not available for customer tenants, and the news faded into the mix of other announcements made at the conference.

With Office 365 Video now on customer tenants, and as we're in the middle of Microsoft Ignite (the new conference focused on many Microsoft products, including SharePoint), video in SharePoint is again top of mind for many folks.

Office 365 Video is what Microsoft is calling a next-gen portal. It is very much a part of SharePoint, but in a different way than many would expect. It is not an app that can be added to any site in the farm. Instead, it functions almost as if it were another application entirely. It is available in the new Application Switcher in Office 365, where you would go to switch to Outlook, Yammer, or your calendar. This allows the content to be front and center when in the app, but, unfortunately, means that the content is not available in your team site, nor is it secured using your existing permission structure.

When you hit the home screen of the site, you get to a screen that is very typical for a standalone video portal. You have the popular videos as well as videos that pertain specifically to you. The UI is very clean. It is not immediately obvious whether it is possible to upload videos on this page. Clicking down into a channel view of course narrows the scope of videos you are looking at, but also makes it possible to upload videos using a button in the upper right.

While the upload functionality is fairly simple, it is certainly a departure from the top-left menu structure that has been the standard in SharePoint for many years. Those with wide screens or those used to SharePoint may not see the upload button right away. Just as with the rest of SharePoint, you can select files or drag-and-drop. There is no progress indicator on the upload, which can be fairly frustrating when trying to upload a large video file.

The player page is simple enough. It is clear that a clean UI was a goal of the project because all views are fairly similar and almost too simple. The page is laid out very similarly to the YouTube theater view with the player on top taking the full width of the page and all text below it. There is not much in the way of metadata on the page. The title, description and number of views are shown. What surprised me about this page is that you are not able to add any custom fields to the video type. You are limited to the out of the box fields. There is no chaptering of the video or any look-ahead features that would allow you to see what is coming up in the video.

The system-generated metadata certainly leaves something to be desired. Since you are limited to title and description, it is fairly difficult to add your own metadata. I found myself wanting to revert to combining multiple fields into the title.

The search experience is pretty basic. It allows for searching on the title and description of the video. What is noticeably lacking from Office Video that is available elsewhere is the ability to search within the transcript of the video to find words that may not be in the title or description, and to jump to the exact point of the video you are looking for.

Overall, I have found that Office 365 Video is a decent starting point for those looking to dip their toe in the water with video, so to speak. For any company that makes significant use of video, it will likely be inadequate. It is also worth noting that, as the name suggests, Office 365 Video is only available in Office 365 and does count toward your storage quotas. There is no equivalent product for SharePoint 2010 or 2013.

Brian Prigge is a SharePoint Architect with RAMP, where he leads the implementation of RAMP's suite of video hosting, search and discovery solutions into custom SharePoint integrations.

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