Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! No Flash necessary and runs on all devices. ×
The Almighty Buck

MPEG 4, Windows Media 9 At War 727

Andy Tai writes "According to this News.com report, backers of MPEG 4 are protesting Microsoft's licensing fee structure for Windows Media 9, which is up to 50% less than MPEG 4's. They accuse Microsoft of blocking the progress to move to an 'open standard' (MPEG 4), posing unfair competition and threatening consumer choice. Of course, what is really needed is a third choice, a totally Free Software media codec solution that's competitive with both Windows Media and MPEG 4."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

MPEG 4, Windows Media 9 At War

Comments Filter:
  • Wow. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by NerveGas ( 168686 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @10:57AM (#5054653)

    It's not often that people become angry because a corporation is selling things cheaply.

    Rather than be mad at Microsoft for charging so little, I'd be mad at the MPEG body for charging what they do.

    steve
    • Re:Wow. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Ninja Master Gara ( 602359 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @11:02AM (#5054698) Homepage
      Undercutting to gain market control and then skyrocketing prices is the reason anti-trust legislation exists.
      • Re:Wow. (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jsonic ( 458317 )
        Anti-trust legislation exists to keep companies from illegally abusing their market position. In your example, the raising of prices after killing the competition would be the abuse, not the lowering of prices. Lowering prices is the entire point of competition from the point of view of the consumer.
        • Re:Wow. (Score:5, Informative)

          by oliverthered ( 187439 ) <olivertheredNO@SPAMhotmail.com> on Friday January 10, 2003 @11:12AM (#5054797) Journal
          Wrong,
          it's the abuse of a monoply position to unfairly leverage another market.

          So if they bundle WMP9 with a monopoly product and then set the licensing at a loss making level then that's unfair, since there leveraging a monopoly product (windows) by intergrating WMP9, and then undercutting the competition on content costs.
          • Re:Wow. (Score:4, Insightful)

            by sharkey ( 16670 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @11:25AM (#5054922)
            So if they bundle WMP9 with a monopoly product and then set the licensing at a loss making level then that's unfair,

            Hell, they can leave out the bundling. Use the profits from Windows, Office, etc. to make it possible to undercut the competition for WMP2 is dumping in and of itself. The bundling is the kick in the nuts for the enemy who's already cut off at the keeps due to the MS product dumping.
          • Re:Wow. (Score:5, Interesting)

            by tshak ( 173364 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @12:59PM (#5055741) Homepage
            But who said that they were selling WMP9 at a loss?
        • Re:Wow. (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @11:25AM (#5054921) Homepage Journal
          In your example, the raising of prices after killing the competition would be the abuse, not the lowering of prices. Lowering prices is the entire point of competition from the point of view of the consumer.
          Um ... and how exactly do you suppose "killing the competition" happens? Look, when a company makes a better product and sells it at a better price, that's competition. When a company makes a product (whether or not it's better -- usually not, because monopolies and shitty products always seem to go hand in hand) and sells it at a better price for however long it needs to do so to drive the competition out of business, even if it's taking a loss in doing so, that's abuse.

          Has Microsoft ever, in its entire history, made a better product than the competition, sold it for a better price, and made a profit doing so? I'm not trolling; I'm genuinely curious to know if this has ever happened.
          • Has Microsoft ever, in its entire history, made a better product than the competition, sold it for a better price, and made a profit doing so? I'm not trolling; I'm genuinely curious to know if this has ever happened.

            yes and no--

            What Microsoft has generally done through the DOS and Windows market has been to commoditize the hardware market and have a large volume, low cost model (compare the cost of a PC with Windows to a Mac). This has not really resulted in a better product, but it has really resulted in a better price. This in turn has helped to lead to:
            1) the near ubiquity of personal computing and
            2) tremendous profits for Microsoft.

            Unfortunately they have also been extremely anti-competitive towards competitors, such as Digital Research (which did produce a better product-- DR-DOS), and quasi-competitors such as Netscape (whose ubiquity was threatening Microsft's control on the OS). I suspect that this latest spat with MPEG-4 vs WMA9 is the same sort of pattern.

            The fundamental problem for Microsoft though is that unlike the telephone companies, there isn't a large physical infrastructure that they control, and unlike the power companies and LATA-based telecoms, there is no natural division of any infrastructure that they can control, so this monopoly is not natural. Controlling formats is how they try to make this up.

            There are two problems which make the Microsoft monopoly impossible to maintian in my opinion. The first is Moor's Law, which is resulting in longer lifespans for computers as the computers are now powerful enough to meet business needs for a longer period of time. This results in fewer sales of Microsoft OS's because the upgrade cycle is lengthened. Why do you think they are pushing subscription licensing?

            The other is a more subtle problem. The growth of the internet has made it more possible to effectively collaberate on large software development projects between companies, and with developers across the world. This has made developments like OpenOffice, GNOME, KDE, and Linux possible, and it is in part due to the ubiquity of personal computing which has been one of the hallmarks of Microsoft's success. Open Source software has a lower cost model than Microsoft, and is able hence to win at Microsoft's own game. I am sure that a video codec is probably in the works to compete with WMA and MPEG-4. In the end, I am confident that, except for niche markets, that open source software (and similar systems) will eventually take over most markets.
        • Re:Wow. (Score:4, Interesting)

          by sporty ( 27564 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @11:26AM (#5054937) Homepage
          Yeah, but when your as big as microsoft, you can build at a loss to kill off your competition, and regain based on that.

          Imagine if they decided to make a math proggie, like matlab or mathematica, or even maple. Give it away at $10 a pop, and drive them out of business. Acceptable losses to gain long term market share.
          • Re:Wow. (Score:4, Insightful)

            by MisterFancypants ( 615129 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @03:06PM (#5057042)
            Imagine if they decided to make a math proggie, like matlab or mathematica, or even maple. Give it away at $10 a pop, and drive them out of business.

            Yeah but here's the thing.. That doesn't always work. Microsoft has tried for years (after a failed buyout attempt) to become the leader in the Intuit-Quicken-land of personal financial software. Despite many releases of MS Money, etc, Intuit STILL owns this market because instead of acting like whiny little bitches (ala Netscape, Sun), they concentrated on producing a superior product with first rate technical support. People WILL pay for quality, they aren't as stupid as the average Slashdotter assumes.

            Excel didn't knock out Lotus 1-2-3 because it was cheaper just like IE didn't knock out Netscape because it was free, in both cases, the Microsoft solution was simply a BETTER PRODUCT.

      • Re:Wow. (Score:3, Interesting)

        by sammy baby ( 14909 )
        That's usually referred to as predatory pricing. When investigating predatory pricing claims, the metric anti-trust watchdogs use is related to operational costs. [Half-hearted lecture about fixed, variable, and marginal costs deleted.] So in essence, once the cost at which you're selling a product drops below what it costs you to offer it, you open yourself to accusations of predatory pricing.

        The thing is that we're talking about licensing a technology here, and licenses of this nature don't really respond well to that kind of analysis. What is the marginal cost for me to license the format from Microsoft? Arguably, it's zero, or damn near: the costs for developing the format are fixed for the purposes of this conversation, so selling it to me costs a tiny bit of overhead, and that's about it.

        So how do you decided how low is too low when it comes to licensing fees?
      • IANAL, but... (Score:3, Interesting)


        Undercutting is not illegal, though. Charging less than your competitors is the simplest business move one can make.

        If and only if Microsoft gains market control through their behavior and then jacks up the prices, can they be guilty of anti-trust violations.
    • Re:Wow. (Score:5, Funny)

      by Mirk ( 184717 ) <(slashdot) (at) (miketaylor.org.uk)> on Friday January 10, 2003 @11:06AM (#5054739) Homepage
      Rather than be mad at Microsoft for charging so little, I'd be mad at the MPEG body for charging what they do.

      <sigh> ... You really haven't got the hang of Slashdot, have you? All together, now:

      RULE NUMBER ONE: MICROSOFT IS THE BAD GUY. ALWAYS.

      :-)

  • Basic economics (Score:4, Insightful)

    by tempfile ( 528337 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @10:58AM (#5054665)
    If a competitor offers a comparable product for a lower price than you do, he will sell more. The MPEG 4 people should rather lower their fees instead of complaining how evil MS is for making low prices.
    • by Viewsonic ( 584922 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @11:10AM (#5054775)
      Have you not followed the entire Monopoly cases? Microsoft undercuts its competitors to the point where the competition simply CANNOT sell any lower because they dont have the BILLIONS in resources to stay in business like Microsoft can, their strategy is to out live the competitor. They (MPEG) will eventually go belly up, like most of Microsofts competitors. This is standard Microsoft Monopolistic tactics. Find market to take over, then release a product far cheaper than competitor with NO INTENTION of making a profit, watch competitor unable to compete with price wars, watch competitor fold shop. Microsoft wins!
      • Too bad. (Score:4, Interesting)

        by TheSHAD0W ( 258774 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @11:22AM (#5054889) Homepage
        I'm afraid MPEG will have to make do on half their expected revenue. (Frankly, I suspect it'll be more than half; by cutting their own prices, they'll gain more customers, and since costs for royalties are pretty much arbitrary, they won't have more in expenses to lay out.)

        Microsoft can price their product however they please. When they start causing problems, by restricting the platforms their codec performs on, or restricting the performance on other platforms, or if they wait 'til MPEG is dead and then raise their rates, THEN you can slam them for monopolistic practices.

        In the meantime, projects like Ogg will proceed, as will DivX, producing competitors MS may prove hard to beat. So let 'em try to take over the market...
      • by guacamolefoo ( 577448 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @11:38AM (#5055035) Homepage Journal
        Have you not followed the entire Monopoly cases? Microsoft undercuts its competitors to the point where the competition simply CANNOT sell any lower because they dont have the BILLIONS in resources to stay in business like Microsoft can, their strategy is to out live the competitor.

        Sooooo...Microsoft should be forced to continue to charge a high price for its product in order to benefit consumers?

        GF
  • by jpmorgan ( 517966 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @10:58AM (#5054666) Homepage
    If they're angry that Microsoft is selling WMA9 for 50% less than MPEG-4, imagine how pissed they'd be with a fully Free software solution, selling for 100% less than MPEG-4.
  • by Hayzeus ( 596826 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @10:59AM (#5054670) Homepage
    It's like watching Hitler and Stalin Jello(tm)-Wrestle -- who to root for?
  • by stratjakt ( 596332 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @10:59AM (#5054673) Journal
    Let the MSFT-flaming commence.

    Of course MPEG4 could be:

    a) cheaper
    b) better
    or
    c) all of the above.

    I don't need another 'open standard' like MPEG2.
  • by tyrani ( 166937 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @11:00AM (#5054681)
    I think that Microsoft is trying very hard to create the standard rather then accept a standard. As in the past, Microsoft wants to have ownership of important software and video is the next major software hurdle.
  • by BigumD ( 219816 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @11:00AM (#5054684) Homepage
    I can't believe that MPEG-LA would even consider airing this out publicly.

    "You're killing innovation because you charge less than us"

    Please... If you were really that worried about adoption of your standard you would either A) Drop your license rate, B) Open your codec completely or C) Make a better product than MS' and the cost is a moot point.

    It's hilarious to see people cry foul at Microsoft when their business practices are practically the same.
    • 1) Drop the license rate.
      MS called it "cutting off their air supply" if I recall correctly.
      2) Open your codec completely
      Then how can you get any license revenue from it?
      3) Make a better product
      It was widely regarded that the versions of NS were far superior to IE up to 4.0 (and there it's a debate).

      The foul is something called dumping. The practice of below cost in an effort to drive competitors out of the market.

      Now whether MS was dumping or MPEG-LA was gouging is something to be decided by the courts.
  • by ZoneGray ( 168419 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @11:01AM (#5054694) Homepage
    Let me get this straight... these folks say they're promoting an "Open Standard" that costs twice as much to implement as much as Microsoft's proprietary solution?

    Did the definition of "Open" change while I wasn't looking?
    • No. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by spanky1 ( 635767 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @11:06AM (#5054733)
      Since when does open == free?
    • by stratjakt ( 596332 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @11:08AM (#5054754) Journal
      They define "open" as "We will sell it to anyone"

      They define "proprietary" as "Microsoft will sell it to anyone".

      Pure PR move. They count on the geek community viewing Microsoft as evil, vile monsters, and themselves as a committee of care bears.
      • by benwaggoner ( 513209 ) <ben.waggoner@micr o s o f t.com> on Friday January 10, 2003 @11:33AM (#5054989) Homepage
        No.

        MPEG-4 is open because all implementation details are public. You can get a copy of the standard, and build your encoder, decoder, server, etcetera based on it. No NDA's to sign or anything. You have to pay license fees in some cases if you distribute commerical products, but writing the software is something anyone can do.

        This isn't true with Windows Media 9. While some details are avalable, not all are, and some are under restrictive licenses.
  • by Epeeist ( 2682 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @11:02AM (#5054700) Homepage
    How many standards based pieces of software has MS tried to extinguish. In most cases because it didn't fit with their assumption that it might just undercut their monopoly.
  • Um. Yeah right. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MetalHead666 ( 532749 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @11:02AM (#5054701) Homepage
    "posing unfair competition and threatening consumer choice" - Of course... Don't you think Intel would have said something like that when AMD started selling cheaper CPUs? (Not nessecarily better, just cheaper). And what about Star Office? Cheap or even for free at times. It's just plain ridiculous to start complaining about the opponents' pricing points, instead of pushing your own advantages. But, of course, as far as "consumer choice" is regarded, a free alternative would probably make both of the others go bonkers.
  • Come on... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jvmatthe ( 116058 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @11:06AM (#5054737) Homepage
    They accuse Microsoft of blocking the progress to move to an 'open standard' (MPEG 4), posing unfair competition and threatening consumer choice.

    Most open standards cost nothing right? I mean, that's what I thought TCP/IP, XML, C/C++, and so forth were all about. So what's with calling something that requires a license fee to use an open standard?

    If they were really open, at least in the sense that I have come to expect, then MS couldn't possibly undercut them.
  • by eyez ( 119632 ) <eyezNO@SPAMbabblica.net> on Friday January 10, 2003 @11:08AM (#5054757) Homepage
    Exactly how is it an open standard if you have to pay licensing fees to use it, and assumedly write code to create it?

    It seems like they're giving the whole idea of "open standards" a bad name. I realize it's more open than windows media, but I don't really think it's that open.

    What am I missing? What are the licensing fees for?

    • by Koos Baster ( 625091 ) <ghostbusters AT xs4all DOT nl> on Friday January 10, 2003 @11:54AM (#5055166)
      Before Open Source Software became a mainstream notion (say 1990), "Open" as in "Open Standards" used to imply that a company supplied descent documentation with it's API. That's about as open as SUN's OpenLook.

      MPEG is "open" in that the standard was developed by a consortium of companies and other institutions. Therefore, it is propriety, patented, copyrighted and whatever... but these rights are not owned by a single company that's reluctant to reveal the ins and outs of its "standard". MPEG is open in that it openly discussed MPEG4's features before it hit the market.

      So, although MPEG indeed extorts consumers for using their stuff just like any company, a consortium is a much healthier construction viewed from other company's perspectieves. And therefore ultimately (due to competition) also to customers.

      So yes. It is confusing. (And I agree with the majority of posts that only a fully open standard, like Ogg Theora [theora.org] will settle this matter.)

      --
      The good thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from -- Andrew S. Tanenbaum
  • by FooBarWidget ( 556006 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @11:09AM (#5054765)
    They don't want Microsoft to block progress to an open standard? Then they should get rid of that stupid MPEG-4 licensing fees! It should be free for anyone. The licensing fee issues have blocked the progress of a lot of open source MPEG-4 codecs, like XviD.
    • by IamTheRealMike ( 537420 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @11:32AM (#5054977)
      It should be free for anyone.

      Agreed, but I know what my dad would say to that (he works in the UK digital tv industry and is on several digital tv standards boards):

      Him: "Son, things like MPEG aren't simple, and take a lot of smart people a lot of time to create. They should be rewarded for their efforts"

      Me: "But how can something be an open standard if you have to pay for it?"

      Him: "Who says open standards have to be free to implement? It's documented and vendor neutral, that makes it open in my eyes"

      Me: "What about GPLd decoders though! Everyone will just end up using Ogg instead."

      Him: "What about them? It's easy for people to recreate technologies once the expensive research has been done, Vorbis is based on similar ideas to MP3 for instance. Creating them in the first place takes money though, who's going to do that if all the codecs have to be free of charge?"

      At that point I usually shut up, because I don't have a good answer. Looking at the way Ogg is developed I have tremendous respect for those guys, but they are working out their metaphorical basements. See how Tarkin (the research codec) lies abandoned? How would the people who worked on MPEG4 make money without licensing fees? Anybody? I'm sure there must be answers.

      Heh, perhaps we can chat about this on irc over the weekend foo :)

      • by platypus ( 18156 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @01:18PM (#5055914) Homepage
        Him: "What about them? It's easy for people to recreate technologies once the expensive research has been done, Vorbis is based on similar ideas to MP3 for instance. Creating them in the first place takes money though, who's going to do that if all the codecs have to be free of charge?"

        At that point I usually shut up, because I don't have a good answer.


        I'll help you. The answer is science. This old fashioned thing they do on universities. There are these people called scientists, who gave and many still give a flying shit about "patent license fees". Without them, all these "lots of smart people" working on compression schemes would still live in a cage and go in the woods to berry for their daily food.

        The idea that mp3 was so original that ogg wouldn't exist without it is blatantly wrong. At best, it showed that there is a market for that which motivated the creator, but nothing more.
        All the foundations were well known long before mp3 emerged.

  • by The Evil Couch ( 621105 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @11:10AM (#5054778) Homepage
    As many such issues get ironed out, supporters of MPEG-4 want to ensure that it has room to prove itself in the market.

    yes, as I recall, there was a college kid who coded a peer to peer network so that he could swap mp3s with his buddies. he called it Napster. the guy had absolutely no room to prove himself in the market and until the lawsuits rolled out, he was dominating it.

    another college kid coded a windows gui for playing mp3s. he called it Win-Amp. he eventually got his product bought by AOL-TW for several million and with virtually no marketing, winamp is one of the most preferred mp3 players out there.

    point is, you don't need "room to prove yourself". if your product is superior, the market will MAKE room for it.
    • he called it Napster. the guy had absolutely no room to prove himself in the market and until the lawsuits rolled out, he was dominating it.

      winamp is one of the most preferred mp3 players out there.

      point is, you don't need "room to prove yourself". if your product is superior, the market will MAKE room for it.

      You've demonstrated that it's easier to make room for oneself in a market by giving your product away for free. Now show me how to get a product adopted when your competitor is pushing a loss leader financed by $40 billion in cash reserves and MS Office.

      Bit tougher, isn't it? Not to say that it can't be done, but this would not be the first time that MS has crushed a better product by pushing its own products at a loss--at least until the competition went away.

      • Now show me how to get a product adopted when your competitor is pushing a loss leader financed by $40 billion in cash reserves and MS Office.

        Make a better product. Oracle costs way more than MS SQL Server, but people still use it. People (or, more specifically, companies) will pay more for a better product. Rather than whine about MS undercutting them, they should be trying to explain why their codec is better. If my DVD player costs an extra 25 cents to make but I know I'm getting a superior product, I'll spend it. Hell, I'll even eat that extra 25 cents per unit to keep my player priced with the competition who used the cheaper, inferior codec. The MPEG consortium has large corporations as members. I'm sure none of them are going out of business because they're selling fewer 50 cent licenses.
  • by rknop ( 240417 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @11:10AM (#5054782) Homepage

    From a free software purists point of view, does it matter who wins? Neither format is an "open" format.... MPEG-4 may be developed by an industry consortium, but as with so-called RAND licencing, unless I misunderstand something their licencing fees make it impossible to implement the code legally in free software. (Is this the case? I'm guessing that MPlayer's mpeg4 support is dubious legally.)

    What would be best is that if they make it contentions and messy enough fighting each other that both standards are weakend. That will make Ogg Theora look even that much more attractive to companies and the world at large once it comes out, and hasten the support of Ogg Theora. With some luck, that will become the standard, or at least a standard, that is so widely supported that those of us who care about and pay attention to these things can just use it.

    -Rob

    • by benwaggoner ( 513209 ) <ben.waggoner@micr o s o f t.com> on Friday January 10, 2003 @11:29AM (#5054960) Homepage
      The licensing terms aren't that bad, and getting better for newer versions. For example, the forthcoming AVC MPEG-4 codec will be free to implement in all no-cost software. Even now, you get a pass on the first 50,000 distributed players. MPEG-4 is less difficult do deal with than MP3 licensing, and there are certainly lots of stuff in the Free Software community that can author and play back MP3 files!

      MPEG-4 is open because full implementation details are public. While you certainly need to pay to do commerical products with MPEG-4, all details are available for implementation. This NOT true of Windows Media 9. There are nearly a dozen companies today competing to develop the best MPEG-4 encoder. But the only company that can produce the WM9 codec is Microsoft.

      And Ogg Theora is still vaporware, with a public release not until this summer. It's based on VP3 and Vorbis, neither of which are as efficient as today's MPEG-4, let alone the next generation codecs like AVC and the AAC-SBR audio codec, both of which should be in products this year.
      • The licensing terms aren't that bad, and getting better for newer versions. For example, the forthcoming AVC MPEG-4 codec will be free to implement in all no-cost software. Even now, you get a pass on the first 50,000 distributed players. MPEG-4 is less difficult do deal with than MP3 licensing, and there are certainly lots of stuff in the Free Software community that can author and play back MP3 files!



        Free to implement in no-cost software is better than per-seat licenses.... It does mean that Linux users (for example) can get something that will work. Still, that kind of limitation prevents a true open source implementation.



        Re: all the free software things that author and play back MP3 files, my understanding is that they are all black sheep-- not really legal given the current MP3 licencing requirements. Which practically may not be that big a deal, but it is a worry out there.



        Your point about the MPEG-4 standards being published is good, though. It's more open-- or at least far less closed-- than WM9, I would fully agree with that. It's just not completely an open standard :)



        As for Ogg Theora: vaporware, yes, but I predict we'll see it "for real" in 2003. (Come make fun of me if my prediction is wrong.) As for the technical quality, I don't know enough to comment intelligently. How does the efficiency really compare to MPEG-4? What are the efficiency drawbacks? (I.e. is it a speed thing, a size thing, etc.?) How does the quality compare? (Although that latter one, from watching some of the early Vorbis/MP3 debates, is necessarily subjective. I know from my point of view Ogg Vorbis is great and it's what I use for encoding audio.)



        -Rob


        • I'd say MPEG-4 is Open, but not Free, in FSF terminology. Different strokes for different folks. MPEG-4 probably has more engineer-hours in it that the Linux kernel, and a lot of those companies wouldn't have participated if they hadn't thought they'd get money back on licensing terms. But yes, more flexible licenses would certainly help. We'll see what happens.

          And I expect a lot of "black sheep" apps ala MP3, to exist for Linux. Check out MPEG4IP for a LAME-equivalent.

          As for Theora, who knows? It isn't even in beta yet. It's VP3 based, and unless they enhance that code a LOT, it isn't going to be quality competitive with the best MPEG-4 implementations. But maybe they are enhancing it a lot.

          Video codecs are a lot harder than audio codecs. And the new MPEG-4 audio codec (AAC-SBR) is a LOT better than Vorbis.
          • I'd say MPEG-4 is Open, but not Free, in FSF terminology. Different strokes for different folks.

            Indeed... in fact Alan Cox himself has said that the licensing of the code doesn't matter so much as open interfaces, so if people want to charge for implementations that's fine by me as long as free implementations are allowed as well...

            And I expect a lot of "black sheep" apps ala MP3, to exist for Linux. Check out MPEG4IP for a LAME-equivalent.

            Yes, well that's the worry isn't it - it's open now, and hopefully it'll stay open, but can the licensing be changed in future? Everybody thought you didn't need a license to decode MP3s until recently, and now people aren't so sure. That kind of legal vagueness is something to be warey of.

            As for Theora, who knows? It isn't even in beta yet. It's VP3 based, and unless they enhance that code a LOT

            According to the FAQ they have replaced the fixed lookup tables with dynamic ones that they can vary and tweak after Theora is actually released, and can possibly be altered on the fly. I don't know enough about codecs to say, but this approach seems to have worked well for Vorbis with the codec approaching and then surpassing MP3 for compression quality (though not by a huge amount).

  • by javahacker ( 469605 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @11:13AM (#5054814)
    Let me understand this.... Microsoft didn't decide to price fix with the MPEG4 group, which would be an illegal practice, but instead decided to use their marker position to undercut them, which is also probably an illegal practice. This is the complaint?
  • by the-banker ( 169258 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @11:14AM (#5054817)
    It is true that MPEG-LA is being ridiculous. I have no sympathy for them and we can all see what 'reasonable and non-discrinatory' type licensing schemes get you.

    That being said, keep in mind that what is true today may not be true tomorrow. It may not even be true today. Er...

    Anyway:

    1. WMP9 may be cheaper _right now_. MS can change that tomorrow. WMP10 may be 2x as much.

    2. Just because the CODEC is cheaper doesn't mean its cheaper to implement Windows Media Streaimng over a solution streaming MP4.

    3. WMP9 limits (to what degree is debateable) your audience.

    4. Both of these technologies are on the path of the Dodo, IMO. Just as Real Technologies has fallen from techno-marvel to techno-garbage, so will these.

    The past has shown that a truly open standard usually emerges in these areas, via governmental intervention or not. NTSC for North American television. Whatever guage the current railroad system runs on. An RJ-11 phone jack. Streaming video is just too young to be at that stage yet.

  • In other news... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by trcooper ( 18794 ) <<gro.tuoder> <ta> <pooc>> on Friday January 10, 2003 @11:15AM (#5054826) Homepage
    Kraft is protesting Shur-Fine Brand Macaroni and Cheese because it sells for 50% less.

    They think MS should be required to sell for more. How the hell does this help consumers? It doesn't. They're simply trying to ride on anti-MS sentiment and maintain the rate which they can fleece the public.

    Unless MPEG-4 is significantly better than Windows Media, they should drop their prices and be competitive. Suggesting that the consumers should be forced to pay more for similar service JUST because it's not MS is ridiculous.

    If they think their product is so much better that it warrants a higher price do what Kraft does and market the damn thing as such. If it's not, cut the price. That's the way a free economy works, you have a right to charge whatever you want, but don't have the right to mandate what your competitors charge.
    • This would be like Shur-Fine Brand Mac and Cheese protesting Kraft for selling for 50% less. The issue would be if Shur-Fine could prove that Kraft's selling price is actually below the cost.

      There is a huge difference between arguing about premium priced products versus below-cost products. MPEG-LA would have to prove that MS is actually selling their codec below cost.

      BTW, you don't have a right to charge whatever you want in the US. There are anti-gouging and anti-dumping laws that keep things in check.
  • by Halo- ( 175936 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @11:15AM (#5054831)
    I'm confused. If the standard is "open" it means the format of the data and the algorithims used to produce it as disclosed, right? (Among other things...)

    But for MPEG-4 someone wishing to write code which is compatiable has to pay money to license the technology for every copy distributed, correct?

    What is the good of that? A "closed" system couldn't be legally reversed (DMCA.. grrr...) but any implementor's could license the spec from the owner and then do it.

    So what has been gained? The ability to go to jail for writing the application rather than for cracking the format?

  • by klocwerk ( 48514 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @11:22AM (#5054894) Homepage
    Think about it.
    I agree that it's silly in a capitalist society to be complaining that someone's selling something for less than you.

    Microsoft has a significant other source of income. They can afford to LOSE money selling their codec licensing, as it will strenghen the hold of their OS on the market.
    the mpeg4 people, as far as I know, only do that, and can't really afford to lose money on it.

    Look at the xbox. MS lost massive quantities of money on it, and didn't care, because it gave them a foothold into a new market that they wanted to dominate.

    Yes, on the surface, it's a stupid and silly request. But when you consider the above, it's bordering on unfair competition.

    just my thoughts.
  • by jjh37997 ( 456473 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @11:24AM (#5054915) Homepage
    Apple warned them that their rates were too high. They had to fight tooth and nail to get MPEG-LA to drop its rates to their current level, maybe now they'll listen...
    • (drat, posted anonymously for some reason, i must have clicked the box by accident)....

      Apple warned them that their rates were too high. They had to fight tooth and nail to get MPEG-LA to drop its rates to their current level, maybe now they'll listen...

      I doubt the MPEG-LA will ever drop licensing entirely. It's possible, but unlikely.

      That then raises the question - how is QuickTime open again? Yes yes, I know the container format is documented (although documenting something does not make it open obviously) but whenever people say "Apple should open QuickTime", the Mac apologists always say "QuickTime is open, it's just the codecs, and when everybody uses MPEG4 you won't have anything to complain about".

      So, what will Apple do now? It's getting easier to setup MPlayer to use the QuickTime codecs via Wine, but it's still ugly. When will all those trailors be encoded in a format that can be easily played on the platform from which it borrow so much? They say like want digital video for everyone, why don't they fund the Theora team?

  • by Simon Hibbs ( 74836 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @11:25AM (#5054931)

    Their pricing may be a lot less than MPEG-4, but it's almost identical to the pricing already announced by realnetworks for their proprietary audio and video codecs.

    What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander and who was screamig about Real's pricing? I can't see a proprietary solution effectively competing with MPEG in the consumer market, so it's probably the only way they can make headway.

    Simon Hibbs
  • by WD ( 96061 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @11:36AM (#5055015)
    Of course, what is really needed is a third choice, a totally Free Software media codec solution that's competitive with both Windows Media and MPEG 4

    There is.... It's called XVID [xvid.org]
    • by mcrbids ( 148650 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @12:58PM (#5055734) Journal
      From their website...

      "XviD is an ISO MPEG-4 compliant video codec. "

      MPEG4 is a framework for video codecs - not an algorithm in its own right.

      With MPEG4 video codecs (COmpression/DECompression algorithms) are handled "plugin" style, much like the plugins to WinAmp or XMMS.

      Using XviD would still require you to use the MPEG4 video framework, and thus you are still choosing between WM or MPEG4!

      -Ben
  • by g4dget ( 579145 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @11:44AM (#5055086)
    Microsoft's media formats are not documented, hence they are less valuable. That's why they charge less. If the MPEG-4 folks think that they can't compete, they should lower their licensing fees. It is really an outrage anyway that MPEG-4 requires licensing fees for its implementations; it's difficult to see what profoundly new ideas are represented by its standards body.

    What we have here is two greedy organizations battling it out. If we want to avoid getting dragged into this, we really do need open video standards.

  • by alteran ( 70039 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @11:56AM (#5055186)
    Microsoft's spokesman:

    "Lowering and removing licensing barriers is not only great for the consumer electronics and software industries, but also offers consumers the benefits of better quality video at smaller file sizes," said Michael Aldridge, lead product manager for Windows Digital Media division at Microsoft.

    I don't think I have anything to add to this except a smiley. ;-)
  • by Xesdeeni ( 308293 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @11:59AM (#5055213)
    As I understand it, Microsoft's CODECs are heavily based on MPEG4. Aren't they voilating the patents already at this point?

    As for MPEG-LA and the rest of the "standards comittee." There should be absolutely no charge for "standards" that are issued by a "standard comittee," unless that "standard comittee" actually provides something (software, hardware, etc.). Otherwise, the whole thing is a thinly veiled process to come up with ideas and then profit from someone else's actual work.

    At the point where you label it "standard" and push everyone to adopt it for "compatibility," you should lose the right to charge for the idea.

    Xesdeeni
  • by DesScorp ( 410532 ) <DesScorp&Gmail,com> on Friday January 10, 2003 @12:02PM (#5055229) Homepage Journal
    But having to say "gnu/mpeg" all the time would be annoying as hell....
  • Determining Price? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ringwraith ( 230940 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @12:05PM (#5055259)
    So what would be a fair price? This does seem to be a little suspicious -- the very low price -- but how much is something like that worth? For that matter, how much is any piece of software worth. I never understood those people who were trying to get money back from MSFT for overpricing Office. I mean, how can you even determine what the price is for something like that? Isn't it whatever the market can bear?
  • MPEG-4 Fees (Score:3, Insightful)

    by szcx ( 81006 ) on Friday January 10, 2003 @12:43PM (#5055560)
    This isn't about Microsoft charging half as much, it's about the outrageous fees MPEG LA are asking for.

    Under the plan, licensees would pay 25 cents each for MPEG-4 products such as decoders and encoders, with fees capped at $1 million a year for each licensee. It also suggests charging a per-minute rate, with no cap.

    Anger meets MPEG-4 licensing scheme [eetimes.com]

    Companies fear costly MPEG-4 licenses [com.com]

    Apple backs MPEG-4 despite fee dispute [com.com]

    MPEG LA claim that Microsoft is blocking progress? As my dear old grandmother used to say, bitch please.

We can found no scientific discipline, nor a healthy profession on the technical mistakes of the Department of Defense and IBM. -- Edsger Dijkstra

Working...