[whatwg] Chipset support is a good argument

Silvia Pfeiffer silviapfeiffer1 at gmail.com
Sun Jul 5 18:51:45 PDT 2009

On Mon, Jul 6, 2009 at 9:00 AM, Maciej Stachowiak<mjs at apple.com> wrote:
> On Jul 5, 2009, at 3:41 PM, Robert O'Callahan wrote:
> On Mon, Jul 6, 2009 at 8:51 AM, Ian Hickson <ian at hixie.ch> wrote:
>> For that to happen there has to be
>> some demand for Theora support, though, which the spec's can't generate.
> Specs do generate demand --- by creating author expectation that a feature
> will be supported, by adding a well-known brand, and because test suites get
> created which vendors then compete on.
> For H.264, a lot of the demand was created by the initial ISO/ITU standard
> and the follow-on standards for hardware products such as HD video disc
> players, set-to boxes and mobile phones. This was actually considerably
> earlier than H.264 deployment on the Web. For Microsoft's WMV to participate
> in some of the same markets, it had to go through a formal standards
> process, becoming SMPTE VC-1. SMPTE has also standardized Dirac Pro (a
> subset with no interframe compression) as VC-2.
> A spec for Theora through a formal standards process might more effectively
> focus latent demand than a mention in the HTML spec. It would also greatly
> clarify the patent situation, since many holders of wide-ranging patents on
> video compression participate in these groups. I've asked the Xiph folks if
> they'd be willing to take Theora to an organization such as SMPTE.[1]

I don't think putting it through SMPTE will magically create hardware
support. VC-1 and VC-2 didn't magically get hardware support through
being standardised by SMPTE. It is a combination of standardisation
and uptake that will get the confidence for the market. I think the
W3C is in a much better position to achieve this right now than the
SMPTE. Which standards body adopts it doesn't make much of a
difference to the market.

Don't get me wrong though: I don't have anything against putting
Theora through SMPTE - if SMPTE would indeed accept such a submission.
I could imagine SMPTE be interested in it for digital TV type
transmissions, e.g. for picture-in-picture in combination with VC-1 or
VC-2. But the SMPTE process will take a minimum of 2 years and a
dedicated person to travel to meetings, prepare the extensive
paperwork required, and lobby the SMPTE members - an expense that Xiph
is simply not in a position to fund. Also, the documentation required
for a standard is already available: a open specification, an open
reference implementation, test data, and a validation approach. So, it
would be a rather expensive experiment just to get political support
from the TV folks.

The only thing that SMPTE would probably add is a call for patent
holders to come forward now. This is something that the W3C can do,
too. If widely enough publicized, it should bring the risk down.

Please note that this is my personal opinion and not Xiph's official stance.


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