Seven of the world’s biggest tech companies are coming together to redefine and improve the quality of online video. Cisco, Microsoft, Google, Intel, Mozilla, Amazon and Netflix said they’ve formed the Alliance for Open Media to create new video compression tech over the next few years that will make better use of the networks that deliver video to such devices as smartphones, computers, video game consoles and TVs.
More partners are expected to join the new alliance, but group representatives aren’t saying who those new members might be. The initial focus of the alliance is to deliver a next-generation video format that is: interoperable and open; optimized for the Web; scalable to any modern device at any bandwidth; designed with a low computational footprint and optimized for hardware; capable of consistent, highest-quality, real-time video delivery; and flexible for both commercial and non-commercial content, including user-generated content.
Not Just Yet
To support modern streaming-media and videoconferencing services and whatever technologies are on the way, video standards must adapt more quickly than the current 10-year cycle, according to the alliance. That means innovation in video compression has to keep up with video experiences currently being built.
We reached out to Dan Rayburn, a principal analyst with Frost & Sullivan and executive vice president of Streamingmedia.com, who told us that the new alliance is promising, but observers shouldn’t expect any kind of immediate results.
"For one thing, what they’re doing is not a replacement for HEVC (high-efficiency video coding)," said Rayburn. "This is about a next-generation codec that won’t be on the market next year or the year after that."
Improvements in compression are likely to be the key drivers of the alliance’s efforts. Such improvements can lay the groundwork for higher-resolution video with more detail, a better range of colors and contrasts and more video frames per second.
One hurdle for the group’s efforts will be in the form of intellectual property. Developing open standards in a field like video codecs means reviewing patents. The alliance offers a venue for sharing the legal burden in codec development, which will make the whole process run faster and cheaper, David Bryant of Mozilla said in a blog post.
Another factor to consider is that the new alliance is not alone in its pursuit of improvements in compression technology. The 27-year-old Moving Picture Experts Group (MPEG) has produced a number of widely used compression standards. One such standard, H.264, is supported by browsers and mobile phone processors, and MPEG is working on an improved version.
But MPEG creates specifications before determining patent licensing terms, slowing adoption. The new alliance said it prefers an open-source, royalty-free technology. Many of the companies in the alliance have tried to get their own proprietary compression technologies, such as Google’s VP9, to catch on.
However the new alliance shakes out, Rayburn said the initial reports are promising. "If the industry years from now can have a royalty-free codec, that would be good for everybody," he said. "It’s smart for them to think of the future."
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Posted: 2015-09-02 @ 6:24am PT
Great initiative! Time to push MPEG and its patent-trolling out of business and into the books of history!