HD Photo?

Microsoft is trying to standardize it’s new HD Photo (aka Windows Media Photo) format. In general the format sounds pretty decent (though I’ve yet to see it and really compare). From the site:

  • Multiple color formats for display or print
  • Fixed or floating point high dynamic range, wide gamut image encoding
  • Lossless or high-quality lossy compression
  • Extremely efficient decoding for multiple resolutions and sub-regions
  • Minimal overhead for format conversion or transformations during decode

HD Photo delivers a lightweight, high performance algorithm with a small memory footprint that enables practical, in-device encoding and decoding. HD Photo delivers image quality that is comparable to JPEG-2000 and more than twice the quality of JPEG.

Now that does sound pretty good. According to the ComputerWorld article there will be support for Adobe Photoshop CS2 and CS3. So what’s the catch?

The license itself seems to specifically exclude open-source licenses. This means many products like Firefox would have trouble supporting it without a closed source plugin to handle it. From the porting kit license (emphasis mine):

* You may include the Distributable Code or modified Distributable Code in source code form solely as a component of a reference design or development kit for third party device hardware. Your reference design or development kit must be protected by a license that prohibits further distribution of Distributable Code or modified Distributable Code, unless your licensee has obtained such distribution rights from Microsoft.

* You may permit distributors of your Licensed Products to copy and distribute the Distributable Code as part of your Licensed Products, provided that your distributors are legally prohibited from modifying, and do not modify, the Distributable Code and/or the Licensed Product in a manner that causes the Licensed Product (or any third party product in which the Licensed Product is incorporated) to become non-compliant or incompatible with the HD Photo 1.0 file format (a.k.a. the Windows Media Photo 1.0 file format) as defined in the specification(s) provided in the software.

* require distributors and external end users to agree to terms that protect the Distributable Code at least as much as this agreement;

* modify or distribute the source code of any Distributable Code so that any part of it becomes subject to an Excluded License. An Excluded License is one that requires, as a condition of use, modification or distribution, that

* the code be disclosed or distributed in source code form; or

* others have the right to modify it.

Well, I’m no lawyer, but that pretty much rules out any open source implementation. I don’t think there are any licenses that would meet these requirements. This license is for the porting kit.

Now what does that mean for websites like Wikipedia, or even Flickr who have good reason to want to share photos on the web? Even to convert from HD Photo to JPEG would require proprietary software. They also couldn’t do things like resize images, crop etc. on the server side with an open source product. We also know the web and photos are very a very popular couple these days. Obviously any sucessful photo format will need to be web accessible.

Interestingly the HD Photo Blog uses PNG rather extensively rather than JPEG (for obvious reasons). I’d be curious to know what they expect to see from the open source community.

Update: See the comment below.

But wait, there is a curious note on the blog. As far as I can tell it’s still relevant (if anyone knows better let me know):

Windows Media Photo is royalty-free …

  • Windows Media Photo is royalty-free …
  • until 2010.
  • after Microsoft’s related patents expire.
  • for any software product that runs on a Microsoft operating system.
  • when implemented as a component of XML Paper Specification (XPS.)
  • for the first 50,000 units shipped each year.

For units in excess of 50,000 per year, for non-Microsoft OS or non-XPS implementations, after 12/31/2009 and before the Microsoft patents expire, the following royalties apply:

  • $0.05 per unit, -OR-
  • $50,000 per year for the entire company, for all products.until 2010.
  • after Microsoft’s related patents expire.
  • for any software product that runs on a Microsoft operating system.
  • when implemented as a component of XML Paper Specification (XPS.)
  • for the first 50,000 units shipped each year.

For units in excess of 50,000 per year, for non-Microsoft OS or non-XPS implementations, after 12/31/2009 and before the Microsoft patents expire, the following royalties apply:

  • $0.05 per unit, -OR-
  • $50,000 per year for the entire company, for all products.

So I ask… what are the odds of this succeeding as a successor to JPEG?

8 thoughts on “HD Photo?

  1. The quote above about licensing costs (from my blog) is outdated information. It’s been updated by more recent blog posts. HD Photo is licensed royalty-free in all cases.

    The HD Photo Device Porting Kit (DPK) provides reference source code that makes it easy for anyone to implement support for the format. For most of the partners we are working with, starting with a stable, optimized source code implementation is their first choice; it’s the fastest way to implement support for HD Photo for their own device or platform.

    You’re right that the DPK doesn’t enable open source development. You’re using our source code as the starting point which, while royalty-free, is not open source.

    That’s why we announced we’re committed to standardization. Once standardized, the goal is that the appropriate standards organization would then own the format and would publish a full specification. This would allow developers to create their own implementations independent of working with our source code in the DPK, with the option of releasing their implementation as open source.

    In short, we’re working hard to eliminate every concern we’ve heard addressed that might stand in the way of very broad adoption of HD Photo. We don’t expect any new image file format to become pervasive overnight – this will be an extended process. However, we’re doing everything we can to eliminate barriers and speed the adoption process.

    Bill Crow
    HD Photo Program Manager

  2. Interesting.

    “we’re working hard to eliminate every concern we’ve heard addressed that might stand in the way of very broad adoption of HD Photo.”

    But without going so far as releasing a finished, open source implementation.

  3. Pingback: meneame.net

  4. Que se lo metan por el culo. La industria, los desarolladores y los usuarios no estamos dispuestos a tolerar “estandares microsoft”, que son formatos cerrados, controlados por una multinacional y con patentes.

  5. Pingback: Navegabilidad » Blog Archive » Más datos sobre el nuevo formato gráfico de Microsoft

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *