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Microsoft: H.264 Support Not About Royalties

Microsoft on Monday provided additional clarification on why it will support the H.264 video codec in Internet Explorer 9.

Dean Hachamovitch, general manager of Internet Explorer, noted that his earlier comments on the matter had generated "many comments and questions," particularly with regard to Microsoft's H.264 intellectual property rights. Those rights are managed by the MPEG LA patent-holding group, but Hachamovitch dismissed the idea that Microsoft was backing the H.264 codec purely for financial gain.

"Microsoft pledged its patent rights to this neutral organization [MPEG LA] in order to make its rights broadly available under clear terms, not because it thought this might be a good revenue stream," Hachamovitch explained in a Monday blog post. "We do not foresee this patent pool ever producing a material revenue stream, and revenue plays no part in our decision here."

He added that Microsoft pays into MPEG LA about twice what it receives in royalties. Microsoft supports the group to make it easier for users to play DVDs or videos on Windows.

End users currently can play videos using the H.264 video codec without additional cost until the end of 2015. However, Hachamovitch expected that this end-user agreement would be extended past that time. Independent software vendors don't have to pay royalties if their software simply makes calls "to the H.264 code in Windows" without incorporating the H.264 code, Hachamovitch clarified.

Other video codecs will be supported in IE 9 through the use of plug-ins, he added. In supporting H.264, Microsoft wants to avoid having users download various codecs, which could prove to be a security risk. Microsoft might support a different codec natively in IE 9 "when there's industry consensus and confidence that the uncertainties are resolved," Hachamovitch said.

A recent TechCrunch article supplied anecdotal evidence that H.264 already may be the predominant video codec. H.264 holds the top position with 66 percent use, according to first-quarter data generated by Encoding.com, a provider of video services. The next runner up was the Adobe Flash platform, which showed 23 percent use in the same time period.

Microsoft explained that it will continue to support Flash as a browser plug-in, even though Apple has declared that it will not. For its part, Adobe said it was working with "Google, Mozilla, and the broader community" on a new API to facilitate browser interactions with plug-ins. The new API will be neutral to the browser and operating system and enable better security, according to Paul Betlem, senior director for Adobe's Flash Player Engineering.

Google explained in its blog that it will extend the security sandbox in its Chrome browser to Adobe's Flash plug-in. The new Flash plug-in, when completed, will be distributed with Chrome and will be automatically updated, according to Google.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is online news editor for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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Reader Comments:

Mon, May 3, 2010 Eric

Hey Microsoft - if it's not about the money, then the MPEG LA should permanently make the H.264 codec free... forever.

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