Link: Time to standardize on H.264?

Editor’s Note from the latest issue of Streaming Media asks if it’s time to standardize on H.264 for online video:

Why have competing video formats at all? That question has long seemed polyannaish to those on the Streaming Media lists who are invested heavily in one proprietary technology or another, but now that Microsoft Silverlight has finally joined Adobe in supporting H.264 playback—QuickTime and RealPlayer were ahead of the game on this one—our industry needs to evaluate whether or not it’s time to agree upon H.264 as the standard for all online video.

Actually, this is news to me that Silverlight now supports H.264, but I don’t track the Microsoft technologies all that closely (I know, but hours in the day, better things to do, etc…). But it probably helps a large group of their users who are already interested in H.264 for other reasons, and who might not adopt Silverlight as a delivery platform if it insisted on using MS video (as far as I know, the MS stuff is fine, just different). And it just helps to further reinforce H.264’s virtuous circles: more potential clients means more companies working on encoders (the by-design competitive half of the MPEG standards), which means higher quality at lower bitrates, which makes the codec even more appealing, so more people adopt it, and so on.

Come to think of it, it would be interesting to know if the Silverlight-based Netflix on Demand for Mac is using H.264 or VC-1 or some other MS codec. BTW, the Netflix deal probably gives real legitimacy to Silverlight as a cross-platform technology in the eyes of a lot of Mac users. At the end of the day, they don’t want to be denied content because of their platform choice and if Microsoft (of all people!) can help that, then so be it.

Left out in the cold, unsurprisingly, is JavaFX and Sun’s typically bizarre choice of the On2 no-name codec. I’ve bashed this before, and I assume that the end-of-the-day reason is that Sun just doesn’t have the money to license H.264, but now with both Flash and Silverlight supporting H.264, JavaFX is even more of an odd man out. Apparently, the premise here is that there really is an audience out there for a Flash-workalike that uses its own weird language, its own weird plug-in, its own weird codec, etc…

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