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Microsoft Codec Required For Blu-Ray Players 490

dmayle writes "According to ExtremeTech, the Blu-Ray Disc Association (which consists of many big names, like Sony, Philips, and Pioneer) has decided to mandate Microsoft's VC-1 video codec. With HD-DVD incorporating Microsoft's patented video codecs as well, what will happen to the state of media players on Open Source? (Here's an additional source for Blu-Ray info)."
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Microsoft Codec Required For Blu-Ray Players

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  • by garcia ( 6573 ) * on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @11:25AM (#10128790)
    Ahem [], it seems that they are making their inroads to Media domination...

    Microsoft will maintain its neutral position in supporting the emerging high definition video formats, said Amir Majidimehr, corporate vice president of Microsoft's Windows Media division, in a statement.

    MSFT will remain "neutral" as long as they are getting paid royalties to use the codec in the design. This will likely mean that Open Source alternatives will be shutout although with other technologies OSS has been able to make its way around those roadblocks.

    How long until the MPAA gives in or will yet ANOTHER media format be created that won't include MSFT or OSS?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      corrected link [], sorry.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @11:36AM (#10128971)
      Another case of RTFA

      From the Blu-ray FAQ:
      What video codecs will Blu-ray support? UPDATED

      The Blu-ray Disc Founders (BDF) still haven't made a final decision about what video codecs will be included, but MPEG-2 is already part of the specification. According to the BDF technical spokesman Richard Doherty, they will also include at least one, possibly more than one, advanced video codec beyond MPEG-2 in the Blu-ray Disc format. Current canidates include MPEG-4 AVC High Profile (previously called FRExt) and VC-9. They plan to announce which advanced video codec(s) will be used sometime in September and expect the specification to be finshed by the end of the year.

      Obviously MPEG-2 will be the compression algorithm for most video playback. It just happens that they are adding other codecs to the standard so that in order for hardware to be compliant they will have to decode various other MPEG-4 codecs....VC-9 being one chosen for the spec.
      • Why do you assume MPEG-2 will be dominant? the VC-1 codec (aka VC-9, aka WMV9 Advanced Profile) can provide similar quality to MPEG-2 at half the bitrate. This means that content providers could do a project with a cheaper, single layer disc instead of a dual layer disc for longer projects.

        I believe the big driver behind this is the competition form the DVD Forum's own blue laser format. DVD Forum already has tentative support for VC-1 and H.264. Even though the DVD Forum has lower digital capacity, the support for better codecs meant that DVD Forum could actually get more hours of good quality content on the disc. So equalizing the codecs means that Blu-Ray's capacity advantage can shine.

        That said, I'm still betting on DVD Forum. 30 GB will mean more hours of HD content that DVD can do of SD. Also, DVD Forum discs are MUCH easier to convert an existing DVD plant to, and likely will be more durable in day to day use.

        Blu-ray seems more likely to win inside cameras and that kind of thing, where capacity is a bigger deal. Think VHS v. Beta, where Beta turned into the Betacam format, giving Sony a 15-year dominance in professional video formats.
    • by wolenczak ( 517857 ) <{paco} {at} {}> on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @11:46AM (#10129098) Homepage
      It'll be the same history of DVD's, at first you will need a highend expensive player, and later you'll be able to purchase a fully functional chinese player for a fraction of the price. A guy will hack the codec, you will see a perl perl script in a TShirt, M$ will complain, RIIA will complain. And at the end nobody would care in the rest of the world except in the US.
      • by accelleron ( 790268 ) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @02:22PM (#10130867)
        The RIAA/MPAA will complain, no matter what.
        It's a given:

        They bitched when CD burners let us copy their precious music, albums at a time.

        They bitched when players were released to play that [mp3] music, from CD/Flash/HDD

        They bitched when DVD recordables were released to allow people to shrink and burn their precious movies.

        They're bitching about the dual-layer DVD formar becoming recordable and available to the puclic.

        Guess what they're going to do when we can slap 4-8 of their precious DVDs onto one BluRay disc for 50c? [hint: bitch.]
      • first you will need a highend expensive player, and later you'll be able to purchase a fully functional chinese player for a fraction of the price.

        A side note: all dvd drives and players are made in China. There may be some stereo tweeks out there doing custom boxes, but the drives are all sourced from the same 10 or so plants.

    • by ron_ivi ( 607351 ) <.moc.secivedxelpmocpaehc. .ta. .ontods.> on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @11:47AM (#10129117)
      Let them.

      I, for one, wish the MPAA, Microsoft, the RIAA, etc all the best in their attempts to protect and overcharge insane amounts for their content and media.

      The more restricted the $40 DRM-enabled Brittney-Spears Clone that can only be played 3 times before triggering the $2/viewing per-use license becomes; the more opportunity there is for Creative-Commons-licensed music to become popular and mainstream.

      As Sony/MPAA/Microsoft and nuts like Zaentz [](the guy who sued Fogerty for sounding like Fogerty, and then brought us LotR) keep gettting greedier and greedier; they are in fact _creating_ the same kind of opportunity for reasonably licensed Arts that similar nutcases did for Open Source software when they thought they could charge $100 for commodities like OS's and Relational databases.

      Let them kill themselves. Personally, I'll go see local bands that let me tape & publish MP3s of their shows and actually want people to hear their stuff.

      • "the guy who sued Fogerty for sounding like Fogerty"

        Read you own link. He wasn't sued for "sounding" like, he was sued for plagerization, which is a perfectly valid thing to sue over. He lost, by the way.

        From link:
        "In 1985 when John Fogerty made his comeback album Centerfield he include a song called Zanz Kant Danz. The first line of lyric in the song is; 'Vanz can't dance, but he'll steal your money'. Zaentz sued Fogerty and the song title was subsequently changed to Vanz Kant Danz on later pressi
      • Overcharge? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ackthpt ( 218170 ) * on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @12:36PM (#10129761) Homepage Journal
        I, for one, wish the MPAA, Microsoft, the RIAA, etc all the best in their attempts to protect and overcharge insane amounts for their content and media.

        Ok, I have to weigh in here in the interest of some objectivity. Most DVDs currently are in the $25 or less range. Most of the DVDs I've recently purchased have been $10 to $14. I don't see that as overcharging, particularly since a matinee ticket costs $5.00-$5.50 and as high as $9 for evening showings, and you have to schedule yourself to be at the theater at their showing time, not when best fits your schedule.

        Some people apparently missed the Good Old Days when VHS tapes of movies were $30 up to $80 (one studio was always in the $70 to 80 range, while others were much lower) and if you adjust the dollars these would be considerably more in today's bucks.

        Blank media may be pricey, but don't confuse that with what's on sale with content.

        • Re:Overcharge? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by vena ( 318873 ) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @02:23PM (#10130876)
          Ok, I remember when VHS tapes cost a lot, but you can't argue against price gouging by comparing DVDs to theatre tickets, can you? they're both under the same price control and the counter-attack is simply too easy: of course the MPAA's price gouging is reasonable when compared to the MPAA's price gouging. :)
  • What will happen? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Raleel ( 30913 ) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @11:26AM (#10128797)
    It'll be reverse engineered. it'll happen in some other country. it'll move "underground". they'll be a giant legal battle.

    Either that or it'll fail as a format. I'm kinda guessing the latter.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @11:26AM (#10128801)
    Could someone please explain this to me is words that actually made sence to a person that has no idea what codec and all that stuff is?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @11:31AM (#10128895)
      Its like, a bunch of 1s and 0s that make computer stuff work.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @11:52AM (#10129190)
      A codec is a COder DECoder. It's what takes the analog audio waveforms and the still images that make up a video stream and converts them to 1s and 0s for storage on a CD, DVD or other digitial media. It also converts from the bits on the media back to the original (or near original) audio and video. If the coded is patented, then you can not use it without licensing the technology from the patent holder, even if you write a clean version from scratch. That means the everytime you buy a player, a little bit of your money goes to the patent holder (here, Microsoft.) It also means no open source versions of the software.

  • by the_skywise ( 189793 ) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @11:27AM (#10128815)
    "Cutting off the oxygen supply"
  • by DownWithTheMan ( 797237 ) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @11:27AM (#10128821)
    Orwell was right... First it starts with computers... Then to home appliances... Next to the very cable TV we watch... And who can forget the patent that MS put on watches commercials that ask you questions for a prize... The worst part about this, is what it does to open-source codecs... Things like ogg-vorbis and xvid... Will the world every get a clue?
    • > Orwell was right... First it starts with computers... Then to home
      > appliances... Next to the very cable TV we watch...

      I hope you still have the receipt for that 'Orwell' book you're paraphrasing...
      • So many people misquote and misparaphrase from _1984_, _Fahrenheit 451_, and _Brave New World_. I went and read them all because of so many people referencing them. Either people haven't read them, or they haven't read them with the equivalent analysis of high school english.
    • by NanoGator ( 522640 ) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @01:03PM (#10130084) Homepage Journal
      "The worst part about this, is what it does to open-source codecs..."

      What, you mean forcing them to innovate? I know this won't be a popular opinion around here, but if the OSS Community really wants to win things like this, they're going to have to treat their projects like they're products, and compete with the alternatives out there. That means coming up with new stuff that hasn't been done before. That means making interfaces and documentation that dumb-asses such as my self can figure out without having to run to Google. That means making the presence of these things known.

      Microsoft may be a nuisance, but the OSS Community isn't doing near enough to deal with them. The expectation that all the businesses out there who thrive on making money should just stand aside and let the righteous OSS movement stroll right in is self-destructive.

      For the record, nothing about this post is intended to defend MS in any sort of way.
    • Similar licenses (Score:3, Informative)

      by benwaggoner ( 513209 )
      xvid is based on MPEG-4 part 2, which is roughly as patent encumbered and has roughly similar license fees and terms as Microsoft's VC-1. If xvid is good enough from a licensing perspective for you, so will VC-1 be.

      Now, if what you want is an open-source VC-1 encoder, I'm sure it'll happen once the standard is fully finalized, ala LAME and Xvid. The same kind of open-source but unlicensed codec implementation should be perfectly applicable there.
  • by B5_geek ( 638928 ) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @11:28AM (#10128825)
    I am 60% pleased, 30% worried, and 10% indifferent.
    Pleased: Despite all the MS bashing that occurs here, MS does make some very nice A/V codecs.

    Worried: MS has a history of hamstringing their good codecs with DRM and other crap too.

    Indifferent: Nothing to see here folks, FOSS will reverse-engineer and/or come out with far better codecs.

    • by garcia ( 6573 ) *
      Worried: MS has a history of hamstringing their good codecs with DRM and other crap too.

      *WE* don't want DRM but the rest of the public doesn't know/care and the industry *wants* it. So their "history of hamstringing codecs with DRM" is what makes them attractive.
    • by DreadSpoon ( 653424 ) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @11:37AM (#10128989) Journal
      "Indifferent: Nothing to see here folks, FOSS will reverse-engineer and/or come out with far better codecs."

      Doesn't matter if they do or not. The point is that FOSS will never be legally allowed to play these *standard* media discs, ever. The codecs are patented and not available for Free. Every single set-top box or other such hardware will be forced to run at least partially closed software. They might even be forced not to use Linux/BSD/etc. if Microsoft won't release or license versions of their codecs for those OSes.

      Even if we have a much better Free codec, that codec is worthless if every single DVD/movie released *must* be encoded in Microsoft's codecs because the standard mandates it and the hardware for playing those discs all supports Microsoft's codecs, but only one or two support the Free codec.

      It's just like the MP3 situation. The vast majority of people, even geeks that are pro-Free Software, must use MP3, because many of their devices do not support Ogg Vorbis or another high quality Free codec.

      Now that this standard is out that mandates Microsoft codecs, it can *never* be undone, because backwards compatibility must always be maintained in devices that use this standard (or you risk severely pissing off the end users who bought them or media for them), and that then mandates lockin to Microsoft and lockout of Free Software.

      The only hope in this case is that this new technology doesn't catch on (DVDs are still fairly new, many consumers will resist another video format upgrade so soon) and that by the time the market is ready for an upgrade, another Free-friendly standard is dominant.
      • by iainl ( 136759 ) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @11:43AM (#10129066)
        "Even if we have a much better Free codec, that codec is worthless if every single DVD/movie released *must* be encoded in Microsoft's codecs because the standard mandates it"

        The support for Media Player 9 codec is mandated for the players, to ensure that they are capable of showing video files encoded in that format. They are also mandated to do good ol' Mpeg 2 (just like DVD) and Mpeg 4 as well.

        Of course, Mpeg 2 has its patents as well, but that doesn't seem to be hugely bothering people when discussing what this does over DVD, just because "Microsoft = Bad".

        I'm just happy because a more efficient video codec leaves more room for audio on the discs, and we might see some MLP-encoded films.
        • I have a very simple position on buying DVD's.
          If can't play them under linux, I'm not buying them.
          • Well, you, or others, are free to license VC-9 and implement your own player. e nsing/licensing.aspx for information and terms. Now notice, that MPEG-4 and MPEG-2 are listed for comparison and are NOT free. So those projects that do it and don't pay royalties? Ya, they'd be illegal. XviD is legal only as a sorce distro for educational purposes. You compile it and use it, you need to have a license which you don't.

            That's the thing here, it's not that it's no
    • Despite all the MS bashing that occurs here, MS does make some very nice A/V codecs.

      Examples? I know that WMA did quite badly in double-blind experiments. I'm pretty sure it was even here on Slashdot [] that I read about it (that link seems right). I'm not familiar with their video codecs. Are they any better?

    • by Dr. Bent ( 533421 ) <> on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @11:38AM (#10129005) Homepage
      FOSS will reverse-engineer and/or come out with far better codecs.

      Oh, you mean like the ogg codec []? Yeah ogg is great. I love being able to play ogg file on my iPod..oh wait, no. I mean I love being able to stream them to my Tivo. Wait, no I mean, It's great that I can burn ogg files onto a cd and play them in my car ogg...wait, no.

      Better technical solutions do not prevail simply because they're better. Mandating a patented codec is a very bad thing because now legal (i.e. DMCA) and licensing issues become much more important than the technical merit of the codec in determining it's success. FOSS can't save you from Microsoft's undead army of lawyers and marketing drones in this case.
      • MPEG-2 ISN'T FREE (Score:3, Insightful)

        by benwaggoner ( 513209 )

        Everyone seems to be thinking that somehow VC-1 is more patent or license protected than MPEG-2. This simply isn't true. Now, maybe real-world enforcement of the MPEG-2 patents aren't particularly aggressive for OSS software decoders, but every DVD player, and EVERY DVD DISC STAMPED requires a payment to MPEG-LA. And VC-1 license payments will also be handled by MPEG-LA. MPEG-2 or VC-1, there still will be payments, and the checks go to the same company. The interesting differences here are technical
  • by harmonics ( 145499 ) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @11:28AM (#10128834)
    Based on my take of the article, seems this is going to be just one option of many.

    "We've been committed to adding advanced codecs to enrich the Blu-ray Disc format," said Maureen Weber, general manager of HP's optical storage solutions business and a member of the Blu-Ray group, in a statement.

    "We want to offer content providers a variety of compression codecs to suit their various needs. With the addition of Microsoft's VC-1, we extend that option in a package that makes Blu-ray Disc's capacity advantage even more substantial while still delivering the picture quality that consumers demand from high-definition technology."

    A variety of compression codecs sure makes me think we're going to have options...

  • Most of Microsoft's patent portfolio exists solely to protect MS from the lawsuits of other companies.

    Now, if MS licenses this and plays nice (and yes, MS can play nice if it benefits them to do so, i.e. making money by licensing the use of their codecs), we won't have any problems and this isn't necessarily a bad thing. IMO, only if MS keeps it closed, secret and has no licensing options will this hurt OSS.
    • by mrtroy ( 640746 ) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @11:31AM (#10128891)
      Don't jump to conclusions just yet

      Damnit, you tell me now, after I already bought the mat...

    • > Most of Microsoft's patent portfolio exists solely to protect MS from the lawsuits of other companies.

      Actually no. It exists so that VC companies will not fund individuals who have "Great Ideas" because there are MS patents lurking within the realm of said "Great Idea".

      They are there to limit innovation.

      Let's say Idea A has been discovered and patented by MSFT. Then idea B comes along and is related to idea A. No investor in their right mind will plunk down $15M on idea B.

      So it leaves MSFT very abl
    • Ummmm.... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by debest ( 471937 )
      IMO, only if MS keeps it closed, secret and has no licensing options will this hurt OSS.

      Whether the codec will be closed or secret is irrelavent. If the spec is not published, someone will reverse-engineer it. Therefore, there will undoubtably be ways to technically play this media on Linux/BSD/etc.

      Legally, however, is a totally different issue. Sure, there will be licensing options. How much do you want to bet that there will be no options compatible with FOSS (ie. free of cost and distribution res
  • The Auto Industry (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Puls4r ( 724907 )
    This is tantamount to telling people what gasoline they have to put in their car.

    The difference is, as long as the blue-ray players drop in price quickly, the average consumer really won't give a damn.

    You'll only hear a true uproar once prices go beyond what the majority of the market can bear. So prepared to be screwed - because there isn't a damn thing you or I can do about it.

    Yeah, I'm Free. Right.
    • by Luscious868 ( 679143 ) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @12:13PM (#10129427)
      The average consumer isn't going to care about Blue-Ray anyway because the average consumer doesn't have a 50 inch big screen HD-TV and 7.1 channel surround sound. Right now DVD is good enough for the average consumer, who isn't likely to want to run out and replace their new DVD collection.

      There have been plenty of new media formats that have been superior to previous formats that never really caught on. Laser disc, DVD Audio, Betamax, Minidisc, etc. I'm not at all convinced that consumers are going to want to switch to a new video media so soon after adopting DVD. I think DVD is here to stay for a while. I look at Blue Ray much like I used to look at Laser Discs, it's a cool format that videophiles will no doubt love, but the average consumer won't care because what's already available is good enough.

      Look at the new media formats that caught on fast. CD's were leaps and bound better than tapes in the eyes of the average consumer. No more tape players that can shred tapes. Say goodbye to having to fast forward or rewind to find a song and say hello to better audio quality. It was a huge improvement in the eyes of the average consumer. Now consider DVD's. No more worrying about the VCR shredding the tape. Say goodbye to rewinding the tape to the watch the movie and say hello to superior video quality, 5.1 channel surround, extras and deleted scenes. All that Blue Ray is going to have over DVD is that it can hold more extras, will have higher video quality and room for more channels of surround sound. While this is an improvement, the average consumer doesn't have equipment that can take advantage of it. DVD's are good enough, and thus Blue Ray will be akin to Laser Disc. Videophiles will adopt it, but it'll never really catch on with the average consumer.

      • Prediction: You won't be able to buy a non-HD set of more than 23" within a few years. It's not that much more expensive to build an HD set these days. And it's a feature people are willing to pay for.

        See many new black and white sets anymore? This changeover will be quite a lot faster.
  • With HD-DVD incorporating Microsoft's patented video codecs as well, what will happen to the state of media players on Open Source?

    My prediction is this, someone will reverse engineer the codec and release it a la DeCSS and everyone will have it. Microsoft will try to shut it down and there will be T shirts with the code printed on them.

  • by gpinzone ( 531794 ) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @11:29AM (#10128853) Homepage Journal
    How is this different than mandating all current DVD player support Dolby Digital? This doesn't preclude the standard from accepting other open source codecs. Market forces have pretty much made DTS decoding standard in all current players.
    • also, the current dvd players have a system that's supposed to make any 3rd party players impossible as well.

      they're going to hamper 3rd party unlicensed player development anyways... no matter which codec.

    • Dolby isn't Microsoft, doesn't have a 90% desktop monopoly to protect, probably doesn't hate open source and Linux, although they've not stated anything about that.
  • by Noryungi ( 70322 ) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @11:30AM (#10128869) Homepage Journal
    • Either Microsoft opens up its codecs and makes them available for free software players. There is (IMHO) a small chance that Microsoft will actually do this, since the alternative could be another 'monopoly'-type lawsuit.
    • Or the OSS community politely reminds the big corporations that it cannot be ignored anymore, and organizes either a boycott or creates an equivalent of these codecs. Or both (a boycott AND an equivalent).

    All in all, I think this may be more of an annoyance than a real problem. But I'd be interested in the opinion of other /. readers.
  • by Ra5pu7in ( 603513 ) <> on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @11:31AM (#10128888) Journal
    "We want to offer content providers a variety of compression codecs to suit their various needs. With the addition of Microsoft's VC-1, we extend that option in a package that makes Blu-ray Disc's capacity advantage even more substantial while still delivering the picture quality that consumers demand from high-definition technology."

    Notice "A VARIETY OF COMPRESSION CODECS". VC-1 is merely one of several and is being added for those who want better images on high definition displays.
  • I can't help to think that this is incredably short sighted by said companies. They go through all that trouble to create a new format, and then dictate that the compression method used is propriatary, and currently non-standard. It's not about Microsoft(!?), this is about clear and common sence: If you use a propiertary format, don't you think that the owner will charge some kind of royality fee for the useage ? This could only make this more costly, and less attractive to future users of this. Clearly thi
  • by JBMcB ( 73720 ) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @11:32AM (#10128906)
    In the U.S. at least, MPEG2 and CSS used in current DVD players are not really "Open", although they have been reverse engineered and implemented in open source projects (Opened with a crowbar, in a sense.)

    I suppose you could make an argument MPEG2 is somewhat more open, if not unencumbered, than Microsoft codex XXX, but CSS certainly isn't.

  • by mcg1969 ( 237263 ) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @11:34AM (#10128936)
    For the record, Blu-Ray also has MPEG2 and MPEG4 AVC High Profile as mandatory codecs. So it's not like anyone is forced to use VC-1.

    It might seem surprising that they would mandate 3 codecs, due to the added complexity of supporting them together. But it turns out that once you've implemented an MPEG4 decoder in silicon, VC-1 is not that difficult to add on. As for MPEG2, that's needed for back compatability, but as anyone who uses DivX knows, it's far less efficient than modern codecs.
    • As people have rightly stated, I misspoke. Yes, because VC-1 is a mandatory codec, any player that expects to support Blu-Ray content will have to implement VC-1. What is true is that the studios are not required to use it; they may select any of the three formats.

      However, this is a long way from saying that it will only work on Microsoft OS's. First of all, VC-1 is fully published and adopted by SMPTE. The decoder is set in stone, and as a result, nobody need worry thta Microsoft will suddenly change how
  • How is this news? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by daveschroeder ( 516195 ) * on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @11:34AM (#10128944)
    I hate these news articles...they make it look like Microsoft's codec is the only one that will work, when it's just one of several.

    HD DVD supports MPEG-2, H.264/MPEG-4 AVC, and Microsoft VC-9.

    Blu-Ray Disc (BD) already supported [] MPEG-2 and H.264/MPEG-4 AVC, and now just added Microsoft VC-9. So what?

    • by dmayle ( 200765 ) * on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @11:47AM (#10129113) Homepage Journal

      You fail to recognize what the implication of the standard including a codec is. If You have a choice of codecs as a content supllier, that means you can put content on it in any of the formats you choose.

      As an end user of this tech, my player has to support ALL of the codecs in order to watch media, because the dics will likely come in one format only. So, YES, the content provider will have plenty of choice, but the end users will have none, especially if the content providers end up rallying around the Microsoft codec.

    • RTFA.... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Ghengis ( 73865 ) <SLowLaRIS@nOspaM.xNIX.Rules> on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @11:48AM (#10129137) Homepage Journal
      If you read the article you'd know that this isn't an issue of support, it's an issue of MANDATE. From the article: Blu-Ray, backed by companies like Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Philips and Matsushita will require the codec to be used in playback equipment. They're not announcing that they support the codec. They're announcing that they REQUIRE the codec. There's a BIG difference here. What we have is a collaborative standard MANDATING one company's codec over open, standard codecs.
    • Re:How is this news? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by IGnatius T Foobar ( 4328 ) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @11:54AM (#10129219) Homepage Journal
      Blu-Ray Disc (BD) already supported MPEG-2 and H.264/MPEG-4 AVC, and now just added Microsoft VC-9. So what?

      It's important because if you want to build an HD-DVD (and now Blu-Ray DVD) player, you have to support all the codecs specified by the format. You only have a choice when you're a content producer deciding which codec to use. You can't just build a player and decide "Well, I like MPEG but I don't like Microsoft, so I'll omit the VC-9 codec." If you do that, your player won't get certified. And of course, users will complain when their VC-9 encoded discs won't play on your player.

      So now what do you do if you're building, say, a Linux player? Now you have to acquire IP rights from not only the MPEG people, but also from Microsoft. Think that'll be easy?

      Yes, this will be reverse-engineered in some part of the world which is not dominated by the Corporate/Government oligarchy that exists in the US. In fact, the xine/mplayer stuff can probably handle it today. But you can be sure that both HD-DVD and Blu-Ray will carry a brand new scrambling system as well. Perhaps DVD Jon will crack it, but don't count on it happening quickly.
  • Well, it's not like the varios MPEG levels are not patented.
    And as long as algorithms are not patentable in the EU (and I hope it remains so), mplayer will implement it without worries.
  • by denis-The-menace ( 471988 ) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @11:37AM (#10128991)
    1- Remember that Hollywood is supposedly afraid of Microsoft []
    2- Royalties jack up the price of things
    3- There is still plenty of time for bickering and delay to kill this a-la-Digital-Audio-Tape.
    • I think it's great when people cite Slashdot articles as proof for their points in other Slashdot articles.

      Kind of a circular logic there, don't you think? Of course Slashdot is going to claim Hollywood is "afraid" of Microsoft. Of course this article is going to make it seem like Microsoft's codec is the only codec for Blu-Ray (it's not, there are plenty).

      This isn't even news. It's been known for a long time that VC-1 was part of the Blu-Ray spec. But hey, we needed yet another bash-Microsoft article
  • Great! (Score:5, Informative)

    by athorshak ( 652273 ) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @11:37AM (#10128992)
    I know there is a lot of anti-MS sentiment around here, but this is really great news. VC-1 (VC-9) is a great codec for HD and is vastly superior to the aging MPEG2 standard. Think better picture quality at a third of the bitrate on 1080p material. Note that the inclusion of VC-1 does NOT mean the inclusion of any kind of Microsoft DRM. They are completely separate issues We will certainly get some kind of restrictive DRM, but that is a separate issue from VC-1.

    Please note that MPEG2 is still a part of the spec and content providers will still be free to use it if they choose. I believe there is still a chance for H.264 to be included as well. (HD-DVD includs all three codecs)

    I'm of the opinion that Blu-ray will ultimately win this format war, but we shall see. It has a nice capacity advantage over HD-DVD (and now a next-gen codec to utilize it efficiently). I think the only real advantage HD-DVD has right now is intial lower duplication costs due to its physical similarity to DVD. Sony has stated they are going to run with Blu-ray to the bitter end, so I expect them to press enough discs to overcome that initial disadvantage.
    • MPEG2 may be lacking in certain efficiencies, but MPEG2 with enough bandwidth (and the point of Blu-ray was to GET enough bandwidth) looks AWESOME.

      The draw-back to new CODECs? HDTV was SUPPOSED to standardize on MPEG2, not because it was the best, but because it was pretty good when it came out and would be cheap to implement by the changeover in a few years.

      Remember, televisions are going to start having to ship with HDTV decoders (err, did have to start shipping as of a few months ago, a certain percen
    • Re:Great! (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mrchaotica ( 681592 )

      VC-1 (VC-9) is a great codec for HD and is vastly superior to the aging MPEG2 standard.

      What I want to know is this: Sure, it may be better than MPEG2 -- but is it better than Theora? Is it better than that codec the BBC came up with? Is it better than all other non-patent-encumbered codecs?

      If it isn't, then why the hell did they use it? Don't all the other parties involved in the standard realize that even they would have to pay royalties to Microsoft that would be completely unnecessary?

  • by EpsCylonB ( 307640 ) <{moc.bnolycspe} {ta} {spe}> on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @11:39AM (#10129016) Homepage
    Assuming blu ray becomes the dominant hi def format (it's not clear but the ps3 supporting it gives it an edge IMO), the same thing will happen that happened with dvd's.

    Someone will reverse engineer it, you will be able to play these movies on a linux system but it won't be legal.
  • by doofusclam ( 528746 ) <> on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @11:47AM (#10129119) Homepage
    Does anyone know what a ballpark cost would be for licensing the IP for a blu-ray player, including the MS and other patented bits?

    With all these codecs on board i'd imagine it's a lot more than for regular DVD, and seeing the Chinese manufacturers attitude towards this they'll just go right ahead with their own patent-free platform. Hollywood will ignore them, at first, then they'll panic like mad knowing that a couple of billion users can only buy pirated copies of their films. Brilliant, way to go.

  • by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @11:47AM (#10129128) Homepage Journal
    The Microsoft video codec will be required for inclusion in Blu-Ray players, but others won't be excluded. That means M$ getting a royalty for every player sold in the world, which is a great business for them. It's certainly been a great business for Sony and Phillips, with their codec required in every CD player. It also guarantees their own media products will be compatible with the new players, without any extra R&D, to say nothing of putting their logo on all those consumer devices.

    Other codecs can also run. There might be pricing pressure on manufacturers to exclude the other, non-mandated codecs. Just like the PC "bundling" coup that drove Microsoft to their monopoly position. Blu-Ray needs at least one required codec to be a stable target for media delivery. By requiring Microsoft's codec, they've pushed Microsoft's monopoly-perpetuation strategy into the wider world of consumer TV.
  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @11:48AM (#10129132) Homepage
    Detail #1: "...I predict ...reverse engineered..."

    That doesn't mean anything! It's not Copyright, it's Patents that is the problem here. Microsoft could give away the source without licensing the patent for use in any given software.

    Detail #2: A patent in a legal monopoly by definition. Until patent law is changed, they can't be hit with anti-trust or monopoly abuse quite so easily.

    I think "Open Source" should be organized into a religion... it's just about the ONLY way it will get government protection.
  • So what.... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by zulux ( 112259 ) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @11:52AM (#10129186) Homepage Journal

    In the worst case scenario, us OpenSource/GPL freaks won't be able to watch these wonderful hi-definition movies on our wonderful full-room TVs.

    Instead will have to do something else with our

    Go hiking.
    Learn to play an instrument.
    Drink beer with friends.
    Read obscure books.
    Learn a foreign language.
    Play with children.
    Cook good food.

    Microsoft can keep it's crap for all I care.

  • The future is EVD (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Animats ( 122034 ) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @11:54AM (#10129222) Homepage
    The future is EVD [], from China. Why?
    • Most players are made in China.
    • The Chinese government wants to reduce dependencies on foreign technology that requires royalties.
    • With players selling for as little as $29.95, paying royalties to high-wage countries is no longer competitive.
    • The top-grossing movie this week is Hero []. It's from China.
    It no longer matters what Microsoft or Hollywood wants. EVD players will be in Wal-Mart.
    • Maybe not:

      First EVD disks and software players have been presented in April 2004. As the disk is physically a DVD disk it can be read with any computer DVD drive. Successful copies have been made with DVD-R disks. The number of films offered is still very limited. -- sc
  • by Phantasmo ( 586700 ) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @12:01PM (#10129299)
    The same thing that will happen to all serious Free software development: it will eventually migrate out of the United States where it can continue unhindered by insane patent and export laws. The finished product will find its way back into the US via FreeNet/WASTE/etc.
  • Cinches the Deal (Score:5, Informative)

    by DumbSwede ( 521261 ) <> on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @12:02PM (#10129304) Homepage Journal
    I think this cinches the Deal for Blu-Ray.

    HD-DVD thinks pressing cost (a few cents difference now) will be what wins the war, and cites the VHS/BETA wars as precedent.

    But it wasn't blank tape costs that killed BETA, what killed BETA (in the home market), it was 3 HR record time (extended to 4 ½) versus 6 for VHS on standard tapes.

    Consumers will make the same decision here. Blu-Ray now supports all the HD-DVD formats on 25 gig single layer vs HD-DVD 15 gig. Not only this, but HD-DVD is 2 layers max (per side), while Blu-Ray is planning on going anywhere from 4 to 8. Exactly how many hasn't quite been worked out yet, but at least 4 are almost a certainty and 100 Gig on one side as a result (can you say one full season in HD on one side?).

    HD-DVD's only advantage (and it is a slim one) is the DVD name. But Blu-Ray is a good name too, and one I think the general public will pick up quickly, and assume better because it's using that newer Blue Laser don't you know (even though HD-DVD will be using Blue Lasers also).

    The new Holographic storage is nice too at 200 Gig, but it may be too late to the party to be a video standard storage, it still has a year or two of basic development left. Better to keep working on this one and release it in 2010+ at 1T plus to support Ultra-HDTV. By 2020 I predict Movie Theaters will be an anachronistic oddity like Drive-Ins now. Of course we may not be using Disks at all by then, and downloading U-HD straight off of the internet.

  • by crt ( 44106 ) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @12:20PM (#10129525)
    Not sure what the big deal is. The other codecs that have already been selected are patent encumbered as well ( []).

    Microsoft will likely have to submit to some kind of RAND licensing as part of the deal, which will probably still exclude free players, but last I checked there was no such think as a free MPEG4 patent license either (just plenty of unlicensed implementations).

  • by nuggz ( 69912 ) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @12:38PM (#10129791) Homepage
    Remember like TV you are not the customer.
    The studios are the customer, they are buying a distribution mechanism. They want a good standard so that this channel will work well when it is deployed to the movie customers.

    People don't buy DVD players to have a DVD player, they buy a DVD player to gain access to the DVD entertainment channel.

    Damn I sound like a management/marketing droid.
  • Aaargh! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MrNemesis ( 587188 ) on Wednesday September 01, 2004 @02:51PM (#10131169) Homepage Journal
    Does no-one read TFA?

    In order to be used for next-gen media, VC-1 has to be OPEN SPEC. Therefore, no-one needs to do any reverse engineering in order to get it to play back, like with the MPEG1-4 family. The bitstream specs are available for anyone to look at. However, like MPEG, VC-1 will be haevily patented.

    What is interesting is how MS will handle things when someone *does* write and open source encoder/decoder. While the MPEG patent holders (Fraunhofer and Thomson IIRC) don't seem to mind too much when people write MPEG codecs* without paying royalties, something strikes me that MS are going to be alot less liberal with their patent portfolio once it gets bundled into the version X of mPlayer and Xine. Expect them to get driven away from US and other shores to have their pages located in somewhere that doesn't give a crap about US patents.

    *Most of you will note that in order to remain semi-immune to patents, all the popular open source MPEG codecs I know of (LAME, XviD) are distributed as source-only, and they leave it to third parties to (semi-illegally) build them into binaries.

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