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Microsoft Code in Every HD-DVD Player 375

Posted by michael
from the pay-your-microsoft-tax-today dept.
Neophytus writes "The DVD Forum steering group has given preliminary backing to Microsoft's VC-9 codec along with H.264 and MPEG-2 as mandatory playback modes for HD-DVD players. Having this technology, the most fundamental part of Windows Media Player 9, in every new DVD player could well give Microsoft major leverage into the Cable and Satellite TV markets where currently MPEG2 dominates. The approval is pending an update in licencing terms and other conditions within 60 days."
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Microsoft Code in Every HD-DVD Player

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  • Hmm... (Score:4, Funny)

    by Phoenixhunter (588958) on Saturday February 28, 2004 @04:26PM (#8418104)
    I'm thinking Microsoft will have spent 2+ years developing this only to have it cracked in under 6 months...
    • Re:Hmm... (Score:5, Informative)

      by dcaulton (621302) on Saturday February 28, 2004 @04:27PM (#8418110)
      No, no. This has nothing to do with DRM. It's a video codec.
      • Re:Hmm... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 28, 2004 @04:31PM (#8418148)
        Though seeing as how both MS and most media conglomerates are looking towards DRM lately, I would imagine it's just around the corner.

        If they would have loaded these things with DRM right away there would have been more outcry from the knowledgable public (bit of an oxymoron there). Just having their plain codec onboard so many machines gives them the leverage to toss in DRM when the time is right.

      • Re:Hmm... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by abandonment (739466) <{mike.wuetherick} {at} {gmail.com}> on Saturday February 28, 2004 @05:42PM (#8418555) Homepage
        exactly, to submit the standard, ms had to specifically remove the codec from its proprietary 'vault' and make it publically licensable. after the years of development that they've put into their video compression, this is quite the move for them - considering that years ago the idea of a microsoft standard was simply breaking existing ones with proprietary extensions. frankly the video compression is the ONE thing that microsoft gets right. not that i want ms tech in my dvd player mind you.
        • Re:Hmm... (Score:4, Funny)

          by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 28, 2004 @05:48PM (#8418602)
          "considering that years ago the idea of a microsoft standard was simply breaking existing ones with proprietary extensions"

          I still can't believe they wanted to replace .html with .htm.
      • Re:Hmm... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by .@. (21735) on Saturday February 28, 2004 @06:24PM (#8418833) Homepage
        Really?

        Let's take a look at the T2 disc that is available with WM9 HD content now.

        To watch it, you have to install the player on the disc.

        Then, the player needs to "call home" to make sure you're allowed to use it (via the Internet).

        Then, the player needs to be updated.

        Then the update needs to call home.

        If it hasn't crashed by then (mine did, three times), you MIGHT get to watch your DVD.


        Remember DIVX? Not the codec, the abomination Circuit City was pushing as an alternative to what we now call DVD? Basically a dial-home, pay-per-view DVD format.

        Do we REALLY want that whole scenario all over again?


        I HATE the way companies try to push all of this before the general consumer populace is even aware it's occurring. DVD early-adopters won the DIVX battle, but primarily because Circuit City was the only distributor, and they were easy to boycott. They were also in poor financial shape to begin with, and couldn't bankroll a protracted battle to push their format through.

        MS can. MS will. And our DVD players will have to dial home to ask for permission every time we want to watch a DVD. And you can be certain that "ask permission" will morph into "pay for use" at some point in the future.
        • Re:Hmm... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Michalson (638911) on Saturday February 28, 2004 @07:15PM (#8419160)
          Paranoia anyone?

          Microsoft submitted a codec standard. That standard was accepted as one of the new codecs that will be implimented (by the manufacturers) into the new style DVD players. MS has no control over individual implimentations. This is no different then how some DVD players can now play DivX DVDs (DVDs containing a DivX 5 compatiblity mode encoded avi), except that it will be standard on all units, not just a few special ones.

          How does this benefit Microsoft?
          Since it doesn't give them any control over your DVD player, no special software installed (you can't install software on a DVD player) like the crackhead suggests, they must be getting something. What they are getting is a foot in the DVD door. They can now make more comprehensive DVD burning tools in Longhorn (MS is also likely looking at trying to get digital video camera makers to support the codec too, so you can seamlessly move video from camera, to computer, to DVD-R). The other $advantage$ is that they are now the IBM of one of the new DVD codecs. If studios want to encode DVDs in this manner (which MS will of course strongly market it as the being the "best" choice) they'll want to use tools from the people who know the codec best, which means MS can make lots of money licencing encoders to the people who have lots of money to spend.
          • Re:Hmm... (Score:3, Interesting)

            by dcaulton (621302)
            Good post - the best point you make is about windows/DVD interop, which is the main driver behind this. This potentially heads off the possiblity of pc-unfriendly DVD standards. The money to be made with licensing fees on DVD players is relatively small if the vc-9 licensing is anything like the WMV9 licensing.
            • Re:Hmm... (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Directrix1 (157787)
              It seems to me more like, Microsoft just wants the standard to contain some Microsoft only patents. Thereby, they can dictate what can/can't play/record the new "standard". I thinks its just another way to eliminate competition. The future of new PC is obviously going towards the digital media hub. M$ wants to make sure that hub is MS only.
              • Re:Hmm... (Score:3, Informative)

                by Enahs (1606)
                Bah. Perhaps so. Then again, this makes it possible to put HD video on today's DVD-class discs, potentially keeping prices down. I'm not sure it's entirely a bad thing.

                Personally I find humor in the fact that we may see prices lowered because someone is coming into the market to compete, and that competitor is Microsoft. :-D
          • Re:Hmm... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Wolfier (94144) on Saturday February 28, 2004 @08:50PM (#8419682)
            Theoretically, you're right....

            That is, until MS wins the contract with most manufacturers to be the implementator of the software. Then, you'll no longer be able to separate the codec and the DRM package that comes with it.

            Does bundling sound familiar?
          • One thin dime (Score:5, Informative)

            by Doc Ruby (173196) on Saturday February 28, 2004 @09:06PM (#8419764) Homepage Journal
            No, the way M$ benefits is the $0.10 [microsoft.com] per player copy licensing kickback from the DVD industry. The rest of that complex marketing positioning is just gravy.
            • Re:One thin dime (Score:4, Informative)

              by Michalson (638911) on Saturday February 28, 2004 @09:43PM (#8419903)
              For anyone who is interested - Recorded DVD Player sales (numbers are from the Consumer Electronics Association): 1997: 315,136 1998: 1,089,261 1999: 4,019,389 2000: 8,498,545 2001: 12,706,584 2002: 17,089,823 2003: 21,994,389 2004: 26,000,000? Note that these numbers are only for stand alone DVD players sold by US retailers. DVD-ROM drives and other devices capable of playing DVDs as a secondary function are not included.
              • Re:One thin dime (Score:3, Insightful)

                by Doc Ruby (173196)
                OK, that's 91,713,227 in 8 years, which would be at least 114,641,533 in 10 years, assuming purely linear growth from now on. With the actual growth of this new system (including SW players) M$ would make at least $200M in just license fees on the DV9 codec. Which means *we* will be paying M$ $200M, whether we ever play a DV9 movie or not. Thanks, SMPTE taxman.
                • Re:One thin dime (Score:3, Informative)

                  by Michalson (638911)
                  Which is no different then the tax you pay to W&W Communications for their H.264 (one of the other codecs in the new standard) licencing fees.

                  For reference their cost structure is:
                  No charge for units produced up to Dec 2004 (first they get you hooked)
                  First 100,000 units are free
                  Then its $0.10-0.20 (twice MS's fee) per unit depending of the exact nature of use.

                  The MPEG-2 tax can be even more, as there are many different patents tied up with it. Depending on which patents licencing fees you are exem
    • Re:Hmm...Linux (Score:5, Insightful)

      by frovingslosh (582462) on Saturday February 28, 2004 @05:31PM (#8418484)
      You're missing the point. In this case Microsoft doesn't give a damn about hackers. They want to own the industry like they own the desktop, and they want to strengthen their hold on the desktop. Microsoft pattented property being required for playing a HD-DVD will be the tool they need to be sure that no official Linux release ever has a HD-DVD player. Sure, a few hackers may add on after the fact, but for the masses Windows software will be able to play HD-DVDs and Linux will not.
    • Re:Hmm... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ScrewMaster (602015) on Saturday February 28, 2004 @05:34PM (#8418503)
      Actually, what this will involve is not actual Microsoft-authored code in each compatible player, but software written using patented and licensed Microsoft algorithms.
  • by jimbosworldorg (615112) <slashdot@jimboswo r l d .org> on Saturday February 28, 2004 @04:28PM (#8418120) Homepage
    What are the licensing terms for MS's VC-9 codec? Is it free, or is every HD-DVD player manufacturer going to be required to pay MS a licensing fee? I don't necessarily mind MS being the ones to author a commonly used codec, but I'm pretty violently opposed to them getting automatic royalties on every HD-DVD player manufactured, and getting stuck in the same position we were with decss regarding open source players.
    • by NanoGator (522640) on Saturday February 28, 2004 @04:35PM (#8418168) Homepage Journal
      " but I'm pretty violently opposed to them getting automatic royalties on every HD-DVD player manufactured, and getting stuck in the same position we were with decss regarding open source players. "

      That's pretty much how it's going to work, man. The industry really wants to prevent competition from their own customers.
    • by PPGMD (679725) on Saturday February 28, 2004 @04:36PM (#8418178) Journal
      Royalties have to be paid anyways. The $30 DVD remote for the Xbox is a $10 remote (retail price) with $20 royalties to the DVD group.

      The amount that Microsoft would get paid (if any) would be pennies. I would probably bet that Microsoft would make a deal so they don't have to pay the licensing fee on the Xbox 2 to play DVDs.

    • by Keebler71 (520908) on Saturday February 28, 2004 @04:37PM (#8418182) Journal
      Read the article. Your answer is in the last paragraphs.
    • by KrackHouse (628313) on Saturday February 28, 2004 @04:39PM (#8418193) Homepage
      Good question. It's patented so they can charge if they want. http://www.internetnews.com/bus-news/article.php/3 305461 Patent 6,510,177, granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Jan. 21, is entitled "System and method for layered video coding enhancement." Patent 6,683,980, issued Jan. 27, is entitled "System and method for compressing data." Both touch on the same development; one is systems oriented, the other is focused on bit-level encoding. Now here is an interesting dilemma. We want open technology to spur innovation by preventing lethargic mega-corporations from relying on old royalties. In this case, MS has created something that is better than what is offered by Open Source. Do we give up on good technolgy simply because it comes from Microsoft? Especially when our goal is to make technology more accessible? I think we should because when the hardware stabilizes OSS will eventually catch up and the industry could become too dependant on MS. I'm willing to sacrifice in the short run if my progeny don't have to pay through the nose to watch PBS in high definition.
      • by ratsnapple tea (686697) on Saturday February 28, 2004 @05:03PM (#8418331)
        "Do we give up on good technolgy simply because it comes from Microsoft? ... I think we should because when the hardware stabilizes OSS will eventually catch up"

        Although by the time OSS catches up, Microsoft's going to have come up with something even better and patented it. Well, maybe not Microsoft, but somebody.

        You can't chase a moving target by aiming at where they were six months ago.
        • by Dwonis (52652) * on Saturday February 28, 2004 @05:54PM (#8418646)

          Your comment gives the mistaken impression that OSS is somehow destined to always be behind proprietary software, as far as innovation and technical superiority is concerned. Microsoft and SCO love that notion, but unfortunately for them, it's not true. OSS is overtaking proprietary software in many areas, and it's reasonable to expect this trend to continue.

          Here are just some of many examples of innovative, open-source software:

          Python [python.org]
          A very clean, versatile language. Will probably replace VB for custom RAD in the next decade.
          KNOPPIX [knopper.net]
          A very well-featured bootable OS.
          Mozilla Firefox [mozilla.org]
          There are really too many improvements to list here.
          Vorbis [vorbis.com]
          Cutting-edge audio codec
          Freenet [sourceforge.net]
          Decentralized global data storage system.
          WikiWikiWeb [c2.com]
          LaTeX [latex-project.org]
          Widely-used document preparation system. Spawned from TeX [tug.org], an open-source typesetting system. Popular among mathematicians any cryptologists.
          A completely new approach to global collaborative development. Eventually led to Wikipedia [wikipedia.org].
          • > Python
            > A very clean, versatile language. Will probably
            > replace VB for custom RAD in the next decade.

            Are you completely deluded? Python replace VB? The fact that it's clean and versatile have nothing to do with it: a language that delineates code blocks with whitespace indentation and a "pure" OO language syntax, replacing a pseudo event driven/linear BASIC derivitive? On what grounds is that statement based? Certainly not a researched one: VB may well have been designed as a prototyping lang
            • by takev (214836) on Saturday February 28, 2004 @07:44PM (#8419346)
              Well, I've been a Python programmer for years and I can tell you that it like VB is not only a prototype language, altough people think when they first look at the language.

              It is also not a "pure" OO language, you can write linear script like, write procedural, even pure functional and ofource OO, or combine them all. Although the syntax is pretty strikt unlike perl, the way you can program is very open.

              I'm not a windows programmer, but I have played with Python under windows, and a large part of the windows API is exposed "as standard" in python.

              It is also very easy to add API and callbacks in Python. For example I build in a few days a coupling that alowed python to be used as a TopEnd (Transactional middleware) service/application component. (You were talking about transaction based systems)

              Now, I'm sure not everything you mentioned are already exposed to python, but the parent also told about a full decade, that is 10 years.
              And I am sure You could make everything you put in that list by yourself in a year, including learning python language and concept.

              Python is very easy to pick up, even by non-programmers. There are people teaching Python to their 6 year olds. I've noticed there is even turtle graphics (from the old LOGO language) in Python.

              Also the interactive python interpreter is very nice, you can test and learn concepts on its command prompt. even making TCP connections, opening windows, changing fields in excel, or connecting to a transaction system.

              My languages of choice are Python/C, I know many more languages, but I don't need more. (except for work, but that is not by choice). I use C mostly if things needs to be fast (such as image, video or audio processing) or if I want to expose a API to Python.

              Now, I'm certan that technicaly VB can easely be replaced by Python. There are many political reasons that this may not be the case.

            • Python + Boa-Constructor [sourceforge.net] ~= Delphi. As VB programers start to realize what they can do, and still be in complete control and participate in the language evolution, yes, I think Python could replace VB within 10 years.

              Also, don't forget that Guido got a DARPA acceptance and funding for Computer Programming for Everyone [python.org]. Kids may be learning Python in elementary school soon.

          • Funny you should mention Wiki, since the its inventor Ward Cunningham now works for Microsoft.

            http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/business/158020_ms ft notebook26.html

            (Note: I'm not claiming this fact refutes your statement at all.)
    • Answering my own question, the codec itself is open and non-proprietary, but licensing and royalties ARE required for its use.

      In other words, it's EXACTLY deCSS all over again: the OSS community won't be allowed to play HD-DVDs legally, but somebody will hack together a perfectly functional driver as soon as the actual hardware hits the scene.

      Some things just never change. Sigh...

      • by red floyd (220712) on Saturday February 28, 2004 @06:07PM (#8418722)
        It's different. DeCSS was copyright/trade secret.

        VC-9 has patents involved. You can't legally reverse engineer a patent and use it. Hell, you can't even legally use a patented item that you developed independently.
    • by Kristoph (242780) on Saturday February 28, 2004 @05:09PM (#8418360)
      The MPEG2/4 codecs which were already part of the standard already required "automatic royalties" on players so Microsoft or no this standard will mean players will carry a royalty.

      However, an open source player, distributed in source form, could be considered a sample implementation and might thus avoid said royalties for users savvy enough to be able to compile them on their own.

      ]{
    • by Crypto Gnome (651401) on Saturday February 28, 2004 @07:33PM (#8419273) Homepage Journal
      License is ten cents per decoder, according to the MS website.

      This automatically excludes any open-source (ie FREE) implementations, as either the end-users (??) or the distributors (most likely) would be held responsible for unlicensed copies.

      Yeah it's only Ten Cents, but it's a Big Legal Stick that The Monopoly can BEAT you with.

      Score+1 for Microsoft vs OpenSource.
  • Hopefully... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by MikeCapone (693319)
    It's a good codec (technically), and they'll document it.

    I don't know what exactly the chances of that happening are, considering Microsoft's record, but it's possible..

    One can hope.
    • Re:Hopefully... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Neophytus (642863) on Saturday February 28, 2004 @04:30PM (#8418137)
      As a condition to Microsoft before it could establish VC-9 as a standard, it had to strip VC-9 of proprietary status, Majidimehr said. The company satisfied that condition when it submitted the underlying video compression technology to SMPTE last year and opened up its software to developers for the first time. Now developers can download the technical spec, build on it and not be beholden to Microsoft.
      Unlike some submitters, I RTFA :-)
    • I start my previous post by "It's a good codec..."; this goes with the "Hopefully..." title, so it should read: "Hopefully it's a good codec...".

      Sorry for the confusion!
  • Uh oh. (Score:5, Funny)

    by shirai (42309) * on Saturday February 28, 2004 @04:29PM (#8418132) Homepage
    "At the end of the day they said, We're going to trust Microsoft. It does require us to be responsive in providing the kind of licensing terms that the industry can accept."

    Sometimes the shortest sentences can mean the most. Here's one: Uh oh.
    • Re:Uh oh. (Score:3, Informative)

      by Bull999999 (652264)
      Only "trust" that belongs with MS in the same sentance is "anti-trust".
    • Re:Uh oh. (Score:5, Funny)

      by El (94934) on Saturday February 28, 2004 @05:34PM (#8418495)
      "At the end of the day, we're going to trust the Germans. It does require us to remain vigilant to make sure that they keep their promises... Holy Shit!!! Look at all those tanks!" -- Anonymous Polish Politician, September 1, 1930.
    • Re:Uh oh. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jeff DeMaagd (2015)
      The format is intelligent in one aspect - they wouldn't be able to charge much per-copy licence because they have to compete against two other formats, that way if MS is being too ornery, filmakers just switch to one of the other two versions.

      Now, the DVD Forum would be stupid to not set a pre-player cost limit on royalties, otherwise it's begging for robbery. I didn't find anything in the article about that.
  • by thammoud (193905) on Saturday February 28, 2004 @04:29PM (#8418133)
    before this thread degenerates into Java vs .NET
  • Not surprisising (Score:4, Insightful)

    by October_30th (531777) on Saturday February 28, 2004 @04:30PM (#8418142) Homepage Journal
    Not really surprising.

    Microsoft has clearly working towards extending their influence from PCs to more general game console/home entertainment centres.

    My question is, why has there been no professioanl lobbyist for open source involved with this workgroup? At this level, technical merits don't matter. It's all about politics (which is kind of a good thing; I'd hate to live in a technocratic soceity run by engineers).

  • Here we go again (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mao che minh (611166) on Saturday February 28, 2004 @04:33PM (#8418162) Journal
    The only clear reason for an operating system and productivity company to make a video codec is as a means to tie consumers into their technology.

    Microsoft doesn't make money off Media Player. It isn't a real selling point for Windows. Media Player isn't used in any productive manner by businesses.

    But, if you make sure that your video codec, which only Media Player will can ever use to it's full potential, is the de facto standard, and insure that Media Player only runs on Windows.....

    • Re:Here we go again (Score:5, Informative)

      by minus_273 (174041) <aaaaa @ S P A M . yahoo.com> on Saturday February 28, 2004 @04:51PM (#8418271) Journal
      funny, media player certainly works fine on OSX new update is quite nice..
      • by Quobobo (709437) on Saturday February 28, 2004 @05:27PM (#8418452)
        Works fine? Maybe your definition of fine is different than mine... WMP on OS X is horrible.
        It's the slowest thing I've ever used; VLC and MPlayer play back Microsoft's own video format far faster than their own product does. I can usually play back high-resolution DivX movies fine on my old iMac, but if I try to watch a crappy little WMV I often get about 1fps in WMP. Oh, and the interface is horrible (tries to look like a native OS X app and fails) and I often run into video it refuses to play. That's not even mentioning how you can't install it if your drive is formatted as UFS.
  • Mixed feelings (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SixDimensionalArray (604334) on Saturday February 28, 2004 @04:35PM (#8418176)
    At first sight, this seemed scary - more Microsoft, more monopoly power, etc.

    However, this quote reduced the fear factor for me: "Last September, Microsoft submitted its Windows Media Series 9 as a standards candidate to the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE)--a first for the company and a marked departure from its longtime commitment to keeping its technology proprietary".

    At least they went to an appropriate standards body and are sharing this codec with the public. It's an interesting thing when a technology takes the path from proprietary to standard. Lots of technologies take the path from research -> standard, and not as many go from proprietary -> standard.
    • Re:Mixed feelings (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dgp (11045)
      its an interesting tactical move.

      what matters is the patent. its possible they submitted details about the codec to SMPTE as a way to placate the people concerned about M$ locking down a new DVD format, all the while knowing that they can strong-arm a per-DVD-player fee whenever they feel like it.
  • by Helpadingoatemybaby (629248) on Saturday February 28, 2004 @04:39PM (#8418192)
    Microsoft has long been feared by members of Hollywood and consumer electronics companies for its competitive practices. The thinking has been that if Microsoft were to gain a foothold in their business that it would eventually seize control by charging outlandish licensing fees for its technology.

    "All those fears were on their mind," Majidimehr said. "At the end of the day they said, We're going to trust Microsoft."

    Now, forgive me from laughing at that, but my mind is wandering towards the various ways that Microsoft will exploit this for their own gain:

    1) They can increase the licence fees on the new DVD-9 standard. That's not ineffective because once endorsed and DVDs are released, all players will have to support (and pay) for Microsoft's DVD-9 even if other formats are supported.

    2) They will 'extend' the standard. You can see this coming, can't you? "New DVD-9.1 with extra tracks that are only accessible if you buy Microsoft's new dvd player/software/media unit... etc. etc." This is pretty predictable.

    3) They will offer discounts for those players that remove support for the other standards, thus forcing DVD producers to produce in the only format guaranteed to be multiplayer. Again, pretty predictable -- it's what they always do.

    4) They will patent the transmission of "over the air" DVD-9, so any future Tivo like device will have to pay royalties.

    I could go on, but you see where Microsoft's going with this. It's a horrible, horrible decision for the DVD steering committee. They've just voted themselves into the guillotine. "Trust Microsoft" -- sheesh!

    • by Wesley Felter (138342) <wesley@felter.org> on Saturday February 28, 2004 @05:05PM (#8418343) Homepage
      1) They can increase the licence fees on the new DVD-9 standard.

      Who said anything about DVD-9? We're talking about HD-DVD, which is not the same thing.

      2) They will 'extend' the standard.

      Who cares? The DVD Forum will ensure that every HD-DVD plays on every HD-DVD player. Even "basic" HD-DVDs will be so high quality that I don't care about extensions.

      3) They will offer discounts for those players that remove support for the other standards

      The DVD Forum won't allow this. If your player has the HD-DVD logo on it, it must play every HD-DVD disc, period.
    • by StandardCell (589682) on Saturday February 28, 2004 @05:28PM (#8418464)
      You do realize that DVDs today, utilizing only MPEG-2, require payment of royalties to the MPEG-2 Licensing Association. Furthermore, if you enable Macrovision, CSS, or Dolby Digital audio, you are also paying royalties to the respective organizations because they own patents regarding these technologies. See Section 6.1 of the DVD Demystified FAQ [dvddemystified.com] for details.

      Neither MPEG-2 nor the other technologies that are part of the DVD standard are free (save for possibly PCM audio). Furthermore, the hardware royalties are quite nominal as shown by the proliferation of DVD players, on the order of less than a dollar as the FAQ shows clearly. MPEG-4 Part 10 (aka H.264) and MPEG-2 are still available for use in authoring DVDs. Nobody is forcing anyone to use WMV9 if they don't want to. Just because Microsoft's CODEC is included in the standard doesn't mean that they're taking over anything. It's not mandatory.
  • by pacc (163090) on Saturday February 28, 2004 @04:42PM (#8418203) Homepage
    The Chinese have developed their own format for HDTV capable DVD's [cdfreaks.com], and if high licencing costs is needed for the competition they could easily succeed worldwide. (Despite what major corporations claim they do actually need customers able to view their media)
  • Sceptical.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by zaunuz (624853) on Saturday February 28, 2004 @04:42PM (#8418208)
    Well, since I'm not a big fan of Microsoft's multimedia products, I am very sceptical. Well, of cource, if they manage to keep the software small, free of bugs, and reliable, then it would work. The only problem is that my experience with Microsoft's multimedia software is that they add too many features that the average user dont need/want in a player.

    A quote that can be compared to this:
    "Emacs would be a great Operating System, if someone wrote a good text-editor for it"

    Well, Windows Media Player would be an awesome operating system, if someone wrote a good app for viewing videos. Dont misunderstand me here, wmp is good, but it would be better without all of the effects and features that does nothing more than slow down the entire program. This makes me think of something: In Windows 3.1/3.11 there was this program called mplayer. It worked perfectly, it didnt have any other features than those you need, and it was stable as hell. It is still included in Windows98, but like notepad: Microsoft does not like keeping simple things simple. I can only hope they do so when injecting their code into my DVD-player..
  • embrace and distend (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Saturday February 28, 2004 @04:43PM (#8418211) Homepage Journal
    M$ has dropped proprietary rights to this codec as a precondition to its circulation. That will allow their content and management tools for that format to have the advantage of a much wider installed base to target than just their own M$ customers. Perhaps the increased profits from this "open standards" model will encourage them to open more of their standards, and interoperate directly with those opened by others. It's hard to imagine M$ trading away control even for more money, but their interest is in striking a balance in favor of the money.
  • by doormat (63648) on Saturday February 28, 2004 @04:44PM (#8418222) Homepage Journal
    No one is forced to used WMV 9, they can still use MPEG-2. A dual layered disc (30GB of data) holds 200 minutes of MPEG-2 HD at 20mbit/s. Thats almost long enough to hold Return of the King.
    • by Trelane (16124) on Saturday February 28, 2004 @05:33PM (#8418493) Journal
      No one is forced to used WMV 9, they can still use MPEG-2.


      Concentrating only on users (i.e. neglecting HD-DVD player producers), if every man were an island unto himself, then yes.

      Vendors, of course, will have to pay royalties to MSFT if they want to be able to claim to support the standard (which will be important).

      Unfortunately, we're not islands. We don't produce all of the movies we watch ourselves, so we're not free to choose the format. If MSFT's format doesn't see widespread use, then it's not a big deal. If the format becomes the major format for future DVD movies, then there's no way of going around it short of not watching HD-DVD. And while one can vote with one's wallet, that only has a certain scope. I.e. if the general masses don't care enough, there's not much you can do about it, aside from throwing your gnat's weight into it.

      Personally, given how the current Western corporations are all about screwing the end user (Palladium/NGSCB, DRM at every turn, LaGrande, DVD-CSS, and its followup), I see a huge market for Asia to snag. And I, for one, will cheer them on if they let me do what I want with the movies I purchase. I bought the music/movies; I'm not stealing them or helping others steal them; they have no right to abridge my use of it.
  • by Vaakku (698260) on Saturday February 28, 2004 @04:49PM (#8418256)
    ... We will see blue screens on TV too!
  • Um an idea (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tomstdenis (446163) <tomstdenis.gmail@com> on Saturday February 28, 2004 @04:50PM (#8418264) Homepage
    Why don't they just put the the codec in some byte code format on the media? That way the player can play any codec [within reason: e.g. you'd still have to spec out a codec size, memory alotment, hardware assist standards].

    This way the content producers can use the codec they like not the ones they are forced to by another governing body. OSS people can use their Xvid [or whatever] and the commercial entities can use their MPEG2 [or whatever].

    Put something like a Crusoe with CMS+8MB of ram in the player and just load the codec at play time. Cheap, power efficient and enough MIPS to run any decent codec.

    Tom
    • Re:Um an idea (Score:4, Insightful)

      by October_30th (531777) on Saturday February 28, 2004 @04:57PM (#8418305) Homepage Journal
      Where would the profit and - most important of all - control be there?

      You are clearly viewing this from the techie's point of view. All that is secondary for those who get to decide.

    • Re:Um an idea (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Junta (36770) on Saturday February 28, 2004 @05:11PM (#8418375)
      Not quite so feasible... When it comes to mass-production of decoding chips, very low power (in both the wattage and processing power area), highly customized decoders are far far more economical than general purpose processors. Even the Crusoe is high power by the standards of these processors. Additionally, it is hard to predict the processing capacity of the player unless you enforce a standard hardware set anyway. You say today a Crusoe can handle any codec, but what if some break through occurs that can be implemented handily in a specialized hardware, but no software implementation can work with the Crusoe used in the mass market at the time? Additionally, the extra few megs of storage required to be that flexible is a lot more expensive than the current requirements.

      Just take some time to think about the cheapest general processor based system you have ever seen that is capable of decoding MPEG-2 without dropping frames, and then compare it to the sub-50 dollar DVD players out there. It is a nice dream, but the price is a lot higher overall, and customers would be resistant to such a market change.
      • Re:Um an idea (Score:3, Interesting)

        by tomstdenis (446163)
        This is a case of "just because we can do it doesn't mean we should."

        The "let's make this as cheap as possible" or "market market market" mentality is what lands people with useless and buggy [I've seen many buggy DVD players in my time] equipment.

        Heck even my parents Sony DVD player which is claimed as handling MP3 CDS has troubles reading/playing all of the LAME encoded mp3s on one of my disks...

        I'd rather pay 150$ for a "media player" if I knew it was flexible and upwards compatible [e.g. can use new
    • Re:Um an idea (Score:3, Insightful)

      by -tji (139690)
      That may be feasible for low resolution, like current DVD's. But, at HD resolutions (1920x1080) you need a lot of horsepower to decode the video.. something on the order of a 3GHz P4.

      Check out some sample 1080P video from M$ at http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/con t ent_provider/film/ContentShowcase.aspx [microsoft.com] See how well it displays on your system.

      This is why HD decoders use chips capable of MPEG2 decoding in hardware. They will need to do the same thing for HD-DVD players. It will be sever
    • Bad idea... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Kjella (173770) on Saturday February 28, 2004 @05:15PM (#8418398) Homepage
      Play a 640x360 DivX on your machine. Watch the CPU usage. Then multiply by 9 to get a 1920x1080 pic. Then imagine that in every DVD player. A hardware chip can scale - simply more parallell decoding circuits. If you can do it just as easily with a CPU, apply for a job at Intel or AMD right now.

      Kjella
  • by LostCluster (625375) * on Saturday February 28, 2004 @04:57PM (#8418307)
    Unless and until there's an open standard for subscription digital video from signal distributor to consumer, cable comapanies and DBS companies will always need their own box connected to your TV. Therefore, having any given codec in the DVD player isn't going to lower the cost of selecting that same codec for signal distributors...
  • Ease the translation (Score:5, Interesting)

    by astonish (177831) on Saturday February 28, 2004 @04:59PM (#8418314)
    I was really hoping that something like this would happen, especially since hearing that MS was opening it up to the standards organization.

    HDTV content really does look and sound awesome and I itch to get my hands on HD movies. But if it would require a whole new format HD-DVD would fall flat on its face, not because of the need for new players as having to introduce another disc format in stores at a time when DVD has huge momentum. It would annoy customers and retailers.

    WM9 can fit a feature length film at 720p with decent 5.1 sound in 3-5 GB. With so many DVDs now coming as a 2-Disc set anyway it doesn't seem like much effort to throw in a HD WM9 version along side the standard DVD version and some movies (e.g. Terminator 2) have already done this. No need for a new production processes, wacky labeling at retail outlets, etc. This way those of us wanting HD content won't get snubbed while waiting for a more lossless based (MPEG2) HD-DVD format to get settled and at the same time it won't upset the currently booming DVD market.

    The only annoying thing about movies like this at the moment is they usually require that the player bundled with the movie is used to aquire the license instead of just the standard media player. Most of those bundled players are annoying and mess up far more often. It will be nice when the internet authentication based DRM gets removed so I can just watch things on my netless media PC.

    You can view clips of WM9-HD stuff on the MS website, but honestly their samples are a little disappointing and the two feature length films I watched in the format looked WAY better. It takes quite a bit of horsepower to play the 1080p clips, but the 720p ones aren't so bad. I for one hope to see WM9-HD to pick up ASAP.
    • by Trelane (16124)
      As one who exclusively uses Linux, you may be able to watch these movies and clips, but I cannot (not always; mplayer has the ability to use win32 codecs, but it's not 100%).

      The tech itself might well be good, but if it's not available to the general public, it's not so good (IMHO). If MSFT provides the codec royalty-free and in such a way that FOSS players can use it, I'm 100% for it (well, mostly; I think there may be other formats out there that are better, but which lack the exposure); I just fear tha
  • by Kjella (173770) on Saturday February 28, 2004 @05:05PM (#8418340) Homepage
    With MPEG2, H.264 (aka MPEG4 AVC) and WMV, they're trying to ensure that one player plays all. Kinda how burnable DVDs didn't start to take off until they went both DVD+R and DVD-R.

    With movies, I imagine most people would wait much longer for the "winner" than for burnable DVDs - after all, I plan to have my movies far longer than my DVD burner.

    Noone wants to get stuck with the Beta of HD-DVDs. Particularly since this standard is probably going to be around until we move to something better than HDTV - goodness knows how long that'll take.

    But for now, my 19" CRT is the only thing doing HDTV anyway. So I guess, no hurry.

    Kjella
  • by El (94934) on Saturday February 28, 2004 @05:17PM (#8418407)
    What are the chances of this codec being supported by Linux? I put it right up there will Ballmer suddenly growing all his hair back...
  • by macgyvr64 (678752) on Saturday February 28, 2004 @05:25PM (#8418439)
    "It looks like you're trying to watch a DVD..."
  • by Nazmun (590998) on Saturday February 28, 2004 @05:34PM (#8418500) Homepage
    Seem to be just as good as this codec. In any case i don't really mind as long as i can burn dvd's with this codec. I can fit FAR more in this format then using mpeg2. Saves me about 5x the dvd discs for same quality files.

    This amount is based on me burning dvd video backups using codecs like xvid and others video files using wm9 codec to be played on the pc versus me burning in mpeg2 for standalone dvd players.
  • by CarrionBird (589738) on Saturday February 28, 2004 @05:48PM (#8418604) Journal
    Why are we even bothering with a new format when 97% of the people out there don't use the full capabilities of the existing format.

    How many people really out the longing for better than DVD resolution and are willing to pay for it.

    The only obvious reason to push this new-and-improved DVD is to try for a whole new round of DRM lock-in. Since they lost the CCS battle, they'll start over with DVD-HD. Feh.
  • by gr8_phk (621180) on Saturday February 28, 2004 @06:31PM (#8418868)
    1) Microsoft video codec
    2) Microsoft audio codec (optional)
    3) Microsoft DRM
    4) Media companies displaced by Microsoft as the middleman between studios and consumers.

    I must give MS credit for their patience - world domination doesn't happen over night and they know it. MPAA and RIAA don't seem to get this do they? Or do they think they'll somehow control MS?

  • by Crypto Gnome (651401) on Saturday February 28, 2004 @07:13PM (#8419144) Homepage Journal
    Given the publicly stated Microsoft Policy of Embrace And Extend is this the first step in The Monopoly making a land-grab and successfully screwing up yet another boon to our lives?

    And before you caffeine-freak mods cut off my air-supply, I'm hoping there'll be some rational commentary here.

    I realise all they're currently doing is mandating that some form of Monopoly-Tech be one of the several supported codecs, but seriously - is this a sign that MS is "moving in on" DVDs and is there any scope for them to (in some way) take ownership of key aspects in a way that "Us Geeks" (ie The Thinkers, as opposed to The Sheep) would not be happy with?
    • Glurk! A ten cent per copy license fee means that you cannot legally deploy this without paying Microsoft ten cents.

      IN theory a developer can write a program for it, but either the distributors or the end users legally owe The Monopoly some money.

      Expect some Fresh New Lawsuits.
  • by Crypto Gnome (651401) on Saturday February 28, 2004 @07:39PM (#8419316) Homepage Journal
    Why am I not at all surprised to find that the DVDForum website uses Dynamic HTML in its navigation which fails to render under (for example) FireFox?

    Anyone want to comment whether the navigation (ie menu on the left) works under other browsers?
  • Not a lot of fun (Score:3, Informative)

    by brunnock (18853) on Saturday February 28, 2004 @08:41PM (#8419640) Homepage
    I bought T2 Extreme recently. To play the WM9 version you need a fast processor. My 1.8 GHz P4 couldn't play it, but my 2.4 GHz with 800MHz FSB could. I had to register my copy of the movie and then the InterActual DVD player has to acquire a license via the Internet whenever I watch it.

    Here's the kicker- I played the HDTV version alongside the MP2 version and I couldn't see a dramatic difference in quality.

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