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Microsoft To Google on H.264: Go Ahead, Make My Day
Microsoft To Google on H.264: Go Ahead, Make My Day

By Jennifer LeClaire
January 13, 2011 11:00AM

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Google's decision to drop H.264 video support from its Chrome browser is being mocked by Microsoft's Tim Sneath, who likened it to banning English. Sneath's blog post has Google supporting the Klingon language instead. An analyst said Google's decision to support only WebM is premature and could end support for Google's Chrome browser.

A Microsoft executive is jabbing at Google for planning to drop H.264 video support from its Chrome browser. Tim Sneath, who runs Windows and web evangelism at Microsoft, suggested Google is pushing its will on an industry that has already accepted H.264.

"The world's ability to communicate with one another is a key factor in its rapid evolution and economic growth. The Esperanto language was invented last century as a politically neutral language that would foster peace and international understanding," Sneath wrote on the MSDN blog. The blog's mocking headline reads, An Open Letter from the President of the United States of Google.

Does Google Speak Klingon?

Writing as if from Google, Sneath pointed to the "benefits" of a constructed language, including a pure form of communication unsullied by cultural context, broad adoption by as many as 10,000 speakers, and independent dialects that not only bring additional choice for speakers but also foster healthy competition and innovation.

"Specifically, we are supporting the Esperanto and Klingon languages, and will consider adding support for other high-quality constructed languages in the future," Sneath continued in his mockery of Google's decision to reject what he sees as the equivalent of English in the browser video-support world. "Though English plays an important role in speech today, as our goal is to enable open innovation, its further use as a form of communication in this country will be prohibited and our resources directed toward languages that are untainted by real-world usage."

What About 'Don't Be Evil?'

All mockery aside, Al Hilwa, an analyst at IDC, wants to know how Google can put the growth of an important software product at risk, fragment a standard, and upset developers and web-content owners. He doesn't see this as living up to Google's corporate motto of "don't be evil."

"With Chrome barely reaching 10 percent adoption, it is hard to believe that Google believes it has the dominance to do this or that it would be helping its browser share," Hilwa said. "What is more is that its open-source WebM video container technology and the vp8 codec is still being developed and refined and can hardly be called industrial strength, never mind even narrowly adopted yet."

'Go Ahead, Make My Day!'

As Hilwa sees it, to give content owners or developers a couple of months to adjust may be essentially tantamount to asking them to forget about supporting the Chrome browser. Hilwa said Google's motivation is in the right place -- namely, that H.264 licenses are expensive for content owners and software makers, though free for users. But it's not working out.

"I love their disruptive instinct to democratize video publishing. But this is premature, given where vp8 is relative to H.264," Hilwa said. "Microsoft and Apple have already said they will not come along, so PCs will not support it. Given that Google is integrating Flash with the Chrome browser, why be puritanical about open source, especially since Flash already supports H.264? Developers and content owners cannot move this fast, and don't they realize that this will hurt HTML5, which may never have a standard codec as a result of this? You can almost hear Microsoft's reply: 'Go ahead, make my day.'"

Tell Us What You Think



Posted: 2011-01-14 @ 9:26am PT
How does that work?

A format which is not a universal standard, been checked for patents and is owned by one company is going to be the sole standard video format for HTML5? Sorry, not going to happen and even Google knows this, don't they?

Look at VC-1, formerly Windows Media format before it was given up for standardization by the SMPTE group. Now it is a standard and has a patent pool of no less than 18 different entities that receive royalties from its use. It is unimaginable that WebM can possibly be free of anyone else's work.

The W3C will not recommend a video format for use with HTML5, but they should at least demand that the candidates undergo universal standardization to ensure that there is clarity around patent ownership and also guaranteed technical stability.


Posted: 2011-01-13 @ 4:57pm PT
While Chrome may only have 10% marketshare, Firefox (which also supports webm) combined with Chrome raises it to 40% or more.

Furthermore, IE9 is not yet released, while Firefox and Chrome are already in production and using webm, which is already available on YouTube. And once IE9 *is* released, it will be Vista and Windows 7 only, which will slow its adoption. The IE world will be further fragmented. Even if IE9 manages to replace IE8 within a year or so, that will only be a third of the browser market, assuming IE does not sink even further than it has already.

It is interesting that despite the lack of any cost or significant effort to adding webm to Internet Explorer, that Microsoft prefers to pour its efforts into H.264 plugins for Firefox.

As for Flash, Flash has announced support for webm as well, so in fact, only one encoding is now needed. Webm for modern browsers, and flash to play the webm for legacy browsers such as IE and Safari.

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