Google dropping H264 support for Chrome

  • Posted: 13 January 2011 12:55 PM #31

    Apple is not helping their case in some ways on this entire H.264 kerfluffle.  We are in the mobile video industry and the last thing the world needs is another protracted standards fight that Google seems intent on creating.  However, Apple locks app developers out of using the H.264 codec on both the iPad and iPhone.  We deal in H.264 video, and to render or create video on iOS, we are not allowed to use the hardware on the device.  We have to license a codec and do it in software, at the expense of performance and battery life.

    How stupid is that?  A close second to how stupid Google is in thinking they can win this fight, and in the process mess up the entire ecosystem of customers and content creators. 

    Both Google and Apple need to grow up on this issue.

         
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    Posted: 13 January 2011 01:07 PM #32

    It’s not just “the open source” religion that sees H.264 as problematic. I’ve produced H.264 video for small commercial purposes using tools built into the Mac from raw QuickTime sources. As best I understand, I am not required to purchase a license from MPEG-LA. As best I understand, I may be required to do so when their “free” license expires. They might compel me to pay by the minute or a yearly basic fee. It may be absorbed by tools vendors or it may not. Uncertainty is the problem here, not cost.

    Tell the market what the cost will be and participants in the market will decide what they wants to do. What MPEG-LA has done here is withhold information that will likely be a deal-breaker for its format until such time as it’s too expensive for the deal to be broken. That’s not an unethical tactic, but it’s also not one that everyone has to accept. Mozilla, for example, wasn’t going to accept it from day one, and they have give or take 30% of the browser market. You can count on them never accepting the deal until H.264 patents are free and clear. That’s 30%, not Apple’s 5% or 6%. It’s a very significant chunk.

    Now, before rattyuk chimes in to ask me why I’m showing my mug here and uses unspeakable words to tell me what to do, everyone calm down a minute and realize that not everyone wants to voluntarily pay Apple (or other MPEG-LA participants) for licenses. They might not like Apple, they might not like Apple’s emerging power, etc. They might not like that Apple wrote a letter to the FCC explaining why Google Voice was not allowed on the iPhone and insinuating that Google played willy nilly with customers’ privacy. They might not like that Apple bullied Adobe and caught millions of well-meaning developers in the scatter-shot.

    There is a way that MPEG-LA can respond that would preserve H.264 as more than a legacy format. They can do what Google did with the WebM related patents, that is make them free and clear in perpetuity. Or even make an essential grouping of them free and clear, while keeping a premium grouping for premium content. What Gruber, Siegler, and you guys all forget is that moves like this aren’t dictating to the market. They are negotiating with it. Google and Mozilla have a very strong negotiating position with a technology that is more than good enough. MPEG-LA needs to decide if they want to risk H.264 becoming a niche and legacy format or if they are ready to step up to the plate and do what they have to do to cement it. Or maybe they need to step up and sue Google and see how that works for them.

    In the long run, patent encumbered standards are problematic when they touch everyone, not just a few manufacturers (think about Nokia’s or Qualcomm’s wireless patent portfolios). It’s a very different game. Patent pools have to realize that.

         
  • Posted: 13 January 2011 01:18 PM #33

    Bosco (Brad Hutchings) - 13 January 2011 05:07 PM

    Now, before rattyuk chimes in to ask me why I’m showing my mug here and uses unspeakable words to tell me what to do, everyone calm down a minute and realize that not everyone wants to voluntarily pay Apple (or other MPEG-LA participants) for licenses.

    Once they linked from the front page it was all but inevitable.

    Apple is but one of what, 40 or 50 members? But you make your point with Apple to rub everyone here up the wrong way.

    Go troll elsewhere.

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    Posted: 13 January 2011 01:38 PM #34

    I’m simply asking you to step into your competitors’ shoes. Or step into the shoes of people who might be affected by onerous licensing decisions after H.264 lock-in is effectively achieved. These companies and people don’t live with the purpose of making Apple super profitable or paying license fees for something where a good enough free alternative is widely available.

    You’re the one calling it evil and underhanded, even accusing Google of IP theft. I think they are competing because they have different interests than giving all the profits to Apple. I’d expect such skirmishes to open on countless fronts where Apple is involved. With all that profit, there is lots of room to undercut.

         
  • Posted: 13 January 2011 02:21 PM #35

    Bosco (Brad Hutchings) - 13 January 2011 05:38 PM

    You’re the one calling it evil and underhanded, even accusing Google of IP theft. I think they are competing because they have different interests than giving all the profits to Apple. I’d expect such skirmishes to open on countless fronts where Apple is involved. With all that profit, there is lots of room to undercut.

    So you cannot possibly accept that Google are trying to do this to clobber Apple’s hardware acceleration?

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    Posted: 13 January 2011 02:30 PM #36

    Thanks for being civil again, rattyuk. I greatly appreciate a civil tone of discussion. Of course I would accept that as a possibility. There are millions of dollars in rents being collected by MPEG-LA for hardware acceleration and software stacks that enable it. Realistically, Google on its own can drive WebM hardware codec chips into half the active installed base of smart phones and other web devices by the end of 2012. If others get on board, there will be more sooner.

    “Because they can” is the best explanation offered above. The benefit for Google is not just being the driver behind the change. That’s minor for them. The benefit is leveling the playing field. It’s a lot like their network neutrality position (which I’m definitely not a fan of). Not ideological, just practical for their business. If they had more transport revenue than content revenue, they’d surely agree with me.

         
  • Posted: 13 January 2011 02:33 PM #37

    The point being is that very very very few content providers are doing anything in WebM. Everyone is using h264. This is some knee-jerk reaction from Google to try and shift the market. I actually think that ship has sailed. Although I wouldn’t put it past Google to pull down all the H264 YouTube content - coz they can’t get any adverts in it.

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  • Posted: 13 January 2011 02:40 PM #38

    Bosco (Brad Hutchings) - 13 January 2011 05:07 PM

    ...everyone calm down a minute and realize that not everyone wants to voluntarily pay Apple (or other MPEG-LA participants) for licenses.

    Brad, I have you on “ignore”, but I keep seeing parts of your posts because Ratty keeps quoting them. I just want to say this to you and anyone who might be reading this thread. If you think Google is doing this in order to take H264 royalties away from Apple, then you are a loon. It would be the equivalent of using a tactical nuclear missile to kill a fly.

    If you’re going to make an argument, at least make it a reasoned and reasonable argument. That’s what we come here for.

         
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    Posted: 13 January 2011 02:41 PM #39

    Actually, most content providers that want to reach the whole market will encode in both H.264 and Theora now. It’s not difficult, especially via the QuickTime stack with a free codec. The <video> tag lets you supply as many encoding as you like, and the browser will pick the first/best that it likes. FYI, the Theora encoder absolutely blazes, exporting video in about 1/5 the time required for H.264. Files are bigger for similar quality, but when I want to test out a video with customers, we do that first with Firefox, then export H.264 for everything else.

    The key for Google is to make it easy to produce WebM. They’re smart enough to know that. Having Adobe on board ensures that they’ll make inroads into most of the production market very quickly.

         
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    Posted: 13 January 2011 03:00 PM #40

    FalKirk, is that what I said? No, it is not by any stretch of the imagination. If you’re going to reply to my posts, perhaps you should read them?

    Google is not trying to take H.264 patent royalties from Apple (for Google to get those royalties itself, as you seem to imply that I’m saying). But what they are doing is recognizing that those royalties, totaled for content providers who might be forced to pay them at some point, represent a savings they can offer the web community. You’ll notice that the reaction to this has been more of the “why rock the boat” variety rather than “we look forward to paying MPEG-LA in a few years”. It’s smart to keep that in mind if you’re honestly trying to figure out Google’s motivations.

    The timing was a bonus. Google brought out a bigger Unicorn on Tuesday. Since Google generally doesn’t announce things on a large, exclusive stage, I’d expect the party crashing to continue until it instills a little paranoia.

         
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    Posted: 13 January 2011 03:08 PM #41

    MPEG-LA could make this whole issue disappear if they would just make clear what the royalties are “in perpetuity”.

    It’s hard to like any royalty provision that says “this is the way it is until a certain date and then we’ll see what happens”, which is where they’re at.

         
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    Posted: 13 January 2011 04:19 PM #42

    Folks make way to much about the royalties.  Everyone wants free in theory, but free often carries hidden cost.  For Apple a minor player in H 264 patents, they chose that standard for their devices long before Google offered to open source VP 8.  To think able should rush to retool their whole business at significant cost to support a free standard doesn’t pass the logic test.  If VP 8 becomes the dominate standard and survives the patent battle then Apple can implement the codec.  Why would Apple step in on Googles side in this fight?  For the betterment of the web.  As a shareholder I hope Apple sits this fight out and continues promoting h 264.

         
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    Posted: 13 January 2011 05:40 PM #43

    pats - 13 January 2011 08:19 PM

    Folks make way to much about the royalties.  Everyone wants free in theory, but free often carries hidden cost.  For Apple a minor player in H 264 patents, they chose that standard for their devices long before Google offered to open source VP 8.  To think able should rush to retool their whole business at significant cost to support a free standard doesn’t pass the logic test.  If VP 8 becomes the dominate standard and survives the patent battle then Apple can implement the codec.  Why would Apple step in on Googles side in this fight?  For the betterment of the web.  As a shareholder I hope Apple sits this fight out and continues promoting h 264.

    Regarding the previous 2 posts, there’s a good article with some valid sounding (I’m not a lawyer) legal explanations HERE

         
  • Posted: 13 January 2011 06:44 PM #44

    jimlongo - 13 January 2011 09:40 PM

    Regarding the previous 2 posts, there’s a good article with some valid sounding (I’m not a lawyer) legal explanations HERE

    Thanks for the link.

    In Google?s 250-word announcement about its decision to remove support for the H.264 codec from its Chrome browser, the word open appears eight times. There is no mention of money.

    In fact, it?s not about money. Google?s royalty fees for the H.264 codec are literally a rounding error on top of a rounding error.

    But that hasn?t stopped Google?s defenders from bringing up MPEG LA and its licensing fees as a primary reason behind this controversial decision.

    Much more regarding whether Google is avoiding or entering a “trap” in the original article, cited above and here.

         
  • Posted: 13 January 2011 07:02 PM #45

    I’m surprised Googles received so much press about this.  The odds of Google impacting the future of video codecs on the web or anywhere else is slight at best.  Had they come up with a superior technology it may have been worth discussing but that isn’t the case.  By all accounts H.264 is the superior product.  Much ado about nothing as far as I’m concerned.

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