Apr 10, 2010

Will Google improve the Ogg Theora codec ?

It took a long time to write a post on my blog again, with all the buzzes, tweets and podcasts whirling in my head, but as soon as I read this, I need to spread the news and add some interesting speculation. I'll come to this later. Let's hear what it's all about.

Google has officially announced to put some power behind Ogg Theora, specifically Theorarm, which is a library for ARM-based mobile devices. They mentioning different platforms and the patent-free advantages of Ogg Theora. They also telling that Theora is based on VP3, which was developed from On2, and released to the Theora team later. Hardware support for Ogg Theora looks like one of the main targets.

Now this is interesting from different points. Google bought On2 earlier this year, and now holding all the technology. Rumors was spreading fast, that Google is working on a new Codec to compete against H264. Even the FSF has urged Google to do so and release it patent free like Theora. But this gives a completely new sight of things.
Does Google improve the Theora codec instead of replacing it? This would be a huge move. The Theora Codec have constantly improved over time and the latest version is impressive good and can compete with any consumer codec on the market. But it looks like it's not good enough to be as good as the competition. You need to be clearly better. So, my speculation is, Google might take the chance, improves the already existing codec and here we go.
Now one other thing that they address is also very important: Hardware support. There are already plenty devices which supporting encoding/decoding with a dedicated hardware solution, namely a chip. Many graphic cards do have a hardware-decoder integrated. This is great for slower devices, such as mobiles and netbooks. Google are forcing the developing of Theora dedicated hardware solutions.

Everything looks good now for Theora. This is a total confrontation with Apple. They completely count on H264 in HTML5, while Firefox only supports the initially from the W3C recommended Ogg/HTML. If Google jumps completely on the Theora-train, it will be a huge change towards the patent-free codec and the Apple devices can get really screwed long-term. While Jason Calacanis sees Android outruns iPhone by 2-3 times in the future and the same in the tablet market (TwiT 242), the website designers would be totally stupid to ignore all Firefox-users and all Android mobile devices, including upcoming tablets.

In the end it give some hope for the better and free codec, and to see the Internet once again bursts out from the chains of patent-trolls to let people make their own content freely and independent.

Sources: Google, OSnews

Did you know?
Theora is named after the controller "Theora Jones" from the TV series Max Headroom. In this Cyberpunk sci-fi series, she saves Edison Carter more than once. In the episode "Theora's Tales" she get kidnapped by terrorists and suffered very badly. But then she can kill one of them and free herself as Carter comes to the rescue. In this scene she says to Carter: "there's a lot I haven't told you about myself."
She deserves a video codec named after her, doesn't she?