[whatwg] Codecs for <audio> and <video>

King InuYasha ngompa13 at gmail.com
Wed Jul 1 00:37:30 PDT 2009

On Wed, Jul 1, 2009 at 2:12 AM, Maciej Stachowiak <mjs at apple.com> wrote:

> I'm not sure I have much useful information to add to this discussion, but
> I wanted to address a few points:
> On Jun 30, 2009, at 10:54 PM, Gregory Maxwell wrote:
>> Then please don't characterize it as "it won't work" when the
>> situation is "it would work, but would probably have unacceptable
>> battery life on the hardware we are shipping".
> I don't believe I ever said "it won't work" or made any claim along those
> lines. All I said was that some products use dedicated hardware for H.264,
> and no such hardware is available for Theora. There was an implication that
> this claim was a smokescreen because really it was all just programmable
> hardware; that is not the case.

There wasn't much for h.264 when it was being standardized. There was
committment, yes, but little actual hardware until after H.264 was
standardized and the big names of the time requested the chips: Creative,
Samsung, etc.

>  The battery life question is a serious and important one, but its
>> categorically different one than "can it work at all".  (In particular
>> because many people wouldn't consider the battery life implications of
>> a rarely used fallback format to be especially relevant to their own
>> development).
> If Theora is only going to be a rarely used fallback format, then it
> doesn't seem like a great candidate to mandate in external specs. Indeed,
> others have argued that inclusion in the HTML5 spec would drive far greater
> popularity. If it's going to be widely used, it needs power-efficient
> implementations on mobile.
> Battery life is a very important consideration to mobile devices. To give
> an example of a concrete data point, the iPhone 3G S can deliver 10 hours of
> video playback on a full charge. It's not very persuasive to say that
> availability of hardware implementations is unimportant because, even though
> battery life will be considerably worse, video will still more or less
> function.

I believe he means in the context of the current situation that Theora is
rarely used fallback format. I expect that it would change, given time and a
clear push for Theora. That's why I believe the HTML 5 <video> and <audio>
codec situation is so important. If Theora and Vorbis are standardized here,
and all the major browsers (except Internet Explorer, of course) were to
support it, then users who want to have those videos on the personal
portable media players would ask the companies to add support for them.
Things would probably snowball from there.

> On Jun 30, 2009, at 11:03 PM, Silvia Pfeiffer wrote:
>  It's a chicken and egg problem then. Once there is volume in Theora
>> (speak: uptake), the vendors will adapt their hardware to support it.
>> But we will not adopt Theora because we require hardware support. I
>> think requiring hardware support is therefore an unfair requirement -
>> when H.264 was being standardised, no hardware support (i.e. ASICs)
>> were available either.
> I believe the wide availability of H.264 hardware is in part because H.264
> was developed through an open standards process that included the relevant
> stakeholders. In addition, H.264 was included in standards such as Blu-Ray,
> HD-DVD and 3GPP. This created built-in demand for hardware implementations.
> I believe hardware implementations were available before H.264 saw
> significant deployment for Web content.
> It's not clear if a similar virtuous cycle would repeat for other codecs.
> Might happen, but it took a lot of industry coordination around H.264 to
> build the ecosystem around it that exists today. So I don't think it's
> reasonable to assume that hardware implementations will just appear.
> Regards,
> Maciej
I would like to point out that we do have one of the most influential
hardware manufacturers participating in this: Apple. If they asked for
Theora hardware decoders, they would get them. Which annoys me so much..
They would have quite a lot to gain from supporting Theora, and they refuse
to. If they added Theora and Vorbis to the default set of QuickTime codecs,
then everybody would be happy, since Safari uses QuickTime.

As for the hardware thing, Apple's iPod is the most popular portable media
player. So, any hardware decoder chip manufacturer would be salivating to
get a contract with Apple, and if Apple requested a chip for Theora
decoding, then companies would get it done pronto in hopes of winning a
contract bid with Apple. Then other companies needing hardware decoders for
Theora could get them too.

As it is, Apple is stonewalling efforts to convince them to support Theora
and Vorbis. Additionally, the Theora spec was only finalized last November,
you can't expect all the companies around the world to announce hardware
Theora decoders the next day or something? They need a business case and an
opportunity. The opportunity is here. The business case would be the simple
fact people want to be able to watch videos like Dailymotion, Archive.org,
or Wikimedia ones on their portable media devices. From this desire, profit
could be made in making these chips and selling them to portable media
player makers.
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