Google is perhaps the wild card here. YouTube is fun but as a source of premium movies and TV shows—pshaw, Setos says again. But the ex-Fox executive also notes Google is building its own Hollywood studio and broadcast infrastructure.
Hey, Google is a metro WiFi provider in Kansas and elsewhere, a maker of driverless cars and Google glasses…oh yeah, and a mobile operating system. Seems like there’s plenty of room for Google to tap HEVC for next-generation video markets.
The only question is, will the HEVC patent owners foul the party? H.264 was a success because it was great technology at an affordable price--a flat 25 cents per chip maximum, capped at about $12 million per vendor, I am told.
If HEVC royalties hit a similar level, look out Internet video! But it’s too early to tell.
The MPEG Licensing Authority issued a call for essential HEVC patents in June. There are said to be about 500 of them out there, including many from relatively new players to the MPEG world such as Qualcomm and Samsung.
Twenty-four companies responded to MPEG LA’s call so far. They are set to meet for a third time in February to hammer out terms.
These things don’t always go so well. The people behind MPEG 4 Part 2 had a great technology for a flexible codec that could be optimized for the needs of very different video objects in a scene.
“We tried to use it in our lab, and [the patent holders] said they wanted $400,000 for the encoder, we couldn’t even use it for demos without paying--and that was before we even did any commercial use,” said one source.
Let’s keep our fingers crossed that with HEVC everyone jumps in the pool and plays nice. If not, well we may have several more years to deal with bad Internet video and powerful (MPEG-4-based) cable TV companies.
VP9 is not the first proprietary codec, nor is it the first to be offered for free. Industry tends to shy away from uncertain licensing regimes for fear of bait and switch or worse, essential patent holders surfacing later. The MPEG model creates a level of comfort that has obviously worked in the past. And in attendance at MPEG are the best minds in compression and reps from various stored program platforms (other than x86 machines) to ensure wide usability and the best efficiencies. It is doubtful that any one enterprise, even one as well staffed as Google, can muster this sort of expertise and broad agenda. And the feature that is mentioned above is an encoder implementation component that any codec can be built with.
I'm much more interested in seeing widespread support for the upcoming VP9 codec, which depending on when it's released (probably this year) could be even better and more efficient than HEVC.
The Internet will have to switch to a new codec anyway, whether it's HEVC or VP9, and there's no inherent advantage like compatibility or anything like that to HEVC. In fact it may even be easier to convert from h.264 to VP9 for video sites as you can encode for multiple resolutions in the same time I believe, while you can't do that with HEVC.
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