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MS Proposes JPEG Alternative 633

automatix writes "Microsoft's new competitor to the omnipresent JPEG format has been shown at WinHEC and is discussed on CNET. The Windows Media Photo format has many promises associated with it. The program manager is claiming 'We can do it in half the size of a JPEG file.'. While 'the philosophy has been that licensing should not be a restriction', it is interesting that the specification requires a click-through agreement to even read it."
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MS Proposes JPEG Alternative

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  • Ummmm why? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BWJones ( 18351 ) * on Thursday May 25, 2006 @08:44AM (#15400585) Homepage Journal
    So, my question is fundamentally..........WHY? Other than to simply start solidifying platform specific requirements for websites and other such nonsense, i see no compelling reason why we should even give this a second glance. Besides, Microsoft does know that compression algorithms already present in JPEG can go further than they typically do resulting in smaller, yet more distorted images just like their "Microsoft format" JPEG, although I will allow that some of their approach is a bit more flexible than the current JPEG standard.

    But the fundamental issue is that if Microsoft was being truly open and supportive of commonly used standards, this compression format would not require any click through agreement whatsoever to implement and would not require Windows Media Photo.

    Steven Wells, quoted in the article as saying "Licensing can kill this" is absolutely correct.

  • Back to basics... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 25, 2006 @08:55AM (#15400656)
    Ofcourse this is a biased comment but after reading stories like these one has to wonder if MS doesn't change its priorities and if so; for what reason. When it comes to doing "good for the masses" MS is at an absolute bottom of the list, all they're doing is for their own profit, thats also what made them into the company they are today. The only real innovation MS has done is IMO the userinterface. That's an absolute given, they know how to distribute a desktop environment which can also be used by computer newbies.

    MS has become quite big by raping standards. They're basicly picking up a product, pay for it if they have to, and start to reverse-engineer it (or something like that) and eventually come up with an own variant, thus hoping to push the original competitor out of the market (and they succeeded with that quite a couple of times, just check the history). Naturally we don't have open standards, thus tieing even more people to their products.

    So my biased conclusion? Vista is going to pieces right now, the development costs are becoming staggering and new money is needed. But with big competitors like Google and Sun (to name my 2 favorites) the market has become hard. What to do? Once again copy a famous (or widely common) standard, promise to make it "bigger, better and faster" and tie the copy to your own product line. Most of the media will call it better and smoother (but they again; they'd do that with anything new) and the circus can start all over again.

    One has to wonder how long MS can manage to play this game.
  • Re:Ummmm why? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Epistax ( 544591 ) <> on Thursday May 25, 2006 @08:56AM (#15400659) Journal
    Dude just do a subband contrast threshold analysis on the image and you can often find that you can compress using the DWT (discrete wavelet transform) (JPEG2000) with ratios like 4:1 or better while still having a visually lossless compression. As long as the conrasts in the distortions in the various subbands are below the contrasts in the image data itself (in those subbands), the image is pretty much visually lossless.

    Like, duh.
  • Why? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by zaguar ( 881743 ) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @08:58AM (#15400667)
    What's the point?

    The dominant image formats that we have are just fine: JPEG, GIF and PNG. Each one has its specific use (JPEG for photos, GIF for 8-bit or animated images, and PNG for alpha or lossless images.)

    Currently, I can't think of anything new that this WMP (wimp?) format can do. Unless they can pack all this into ONE format:

    1) Compression without introducing artifacts.
    2) Accurate color, contrast and brightness.
    3) Animation.
    4) Alpha channel.

    If they can squeeze that into one format, we wouldn't need 3 different formats anymore.

  • Cool (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mobby_6kl ( 668092 ) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @08:59AM (#15400686)
    MS got flamed for this on digg, and the few posts which are already here do the same, but I'm not so pessimistic about it.

    Jpeg sucks, this should be clear to anyone who tried to compare it [] to Jpeg2000, for example. Unfortunately, J2k seems to be stuck, and since most browsers don't support it by default (even the upcoming IE7 and Opera 9), using this format on web is suicide.

    So, if this new format performs at about J2k level, and uses less resources to do so, I'm happy MS introduced it. Due to relative suckiness of jpeg, a lot of space and bandwidth is wasted in everything from cameras to online image galleries. If MS gets the licensing right, it could be a very welcome addition to the image compression methods.

    Of course, a stupid/evil license can kill either the format, or whoever tries to use it ;)
  • Image quality ? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by alexhs ( 877055 ) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @09:00AM (#15400690) Homepage Journal
    From Wikipedia :

    Windows Media Photo processes images at 16x16 macroblocks.
    Microsoft claims that Windows Media Photo offers a perceptible image quality comparable to JPEG 2000

    If you use blocks, you will get block effects. While JPEG2000 don't use blocks. So I'm sceptical about that image quality claim... It might be true when you take speed rather than size into account, however.
  • Conclusion: No thanks.

    Yeah, until your relatives start emailing you .wpd pics 'cause they're using Vista & it says "do you want me to prepare the pictues on this device for email?" when they plug in their digital camera.

    I note in the license agreement that:
    Agreement does not give You rights under any Microsoft patents.
    So you can download the spec to comment on it or to:
    as a reference to assist You in planning and designing Your product, service or technology ("Product") to interface with a Microsoft product, specification, service or technology
    Nice. Go ahead & implement this, but you've agreed that you don't have the rights to any patents that cover it.
  • No EULA needed (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Wee ( 17189 ) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @09:09AM (#15400762)
    it is interesting that the specification requires a click-through agreement to even read it

    Not true. Look at the source of the page. You'll see that the "I accept" button is at actually a simple GET request to here []. If you paste that into your location bar and then click the link on the right hand side of the page that comes up, you get the the spec.

    I'm not sure of the legality of direct linking to their .doc file without agreeing to some nonsense EULA, but they put it on the web, so they have to expect a link here and there.


  • by The Cisco Kid ( 31490 ) * on Thursday May 25, 2006 @09:09AM (#15400770)
    GIF got popular because everyone *thought* it was free for a long time before Unisys unearthed their submarine.

    Flash and Real Audio are crap.

    The PDF format is completely open and documented, and you arent required to agree to any licenses to use it or to write software that reads or writes it (And in fact there is quite a bit of software that does just that - you could go an entire life using PDF *without* using any software from Adobe)
  • by eebra82 ( 907996 ) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @09:19AM (#15400844) Homepage
    First of all, we are in the new, improved world of broadband. Bandwidth is hardly an issue as graphics are loaded and stored once and usually on a connection that is capable of some 50 KB/s or more.

    I've been contracted to design high quality Vector(Flash)/Pixel(JPEG/GIF) graphics and animations for some of the largest and most exclusive hotels and restaurants in the world, and never have I had to think about limiting content because size is an important factor. As far as I can tell, news sites like CNN go for photographies for their news stories, but other than that, they go with GIF files to fast-loaded content for its 56K users. In other words, if you want to create a web site with smallish content, go for GIF. You can still do wonders with CSS and a piece of imagination.

    I for one am confused here. Internet Explorer has been the worst of all large browsers when it comes to implementing new technology. It's still because of Internet Explorer that we can't use PNG as a standard, so good bye alpha channels. And despite this, they want to introduce something new? I don't get it. First, follow the standards thoroughly, THEN innovate.

    I really don't think we need more pixel graphics standards that will take five years to become a standard. New vector graphics technology is fine, because that's where we're heading. And while we're at it, the problem when creating web sites is not visuals, but programming. It's amazing that you have to be an expert to make an IE/FF/SAF/OPE web site.
  • by chiller2 ( 35804 ) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @09:22AM (#15400873) Homepage
    Sounds a bit like Outlook 2003 and IMAP4. Bloody personal folders! Anything to solidify the Exchange and Outlook lock in.
  • **shrug** for real (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Ilgaz ( 86384 ) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @09:54AM (#15401114) Homepage
    Well, there is JPEG 2000 and its your loss if you don't use it []

    The amazing, unbelievable thing made me "shrug" is they have the face to use "professional" word. I shouldn't RTFM really.

    Professionals use RAW. RAW you hear me Microsoft? Also they use TIFF for transport. That is the established non lossy standard with some weird extensions, file variations. That is also why professional photographers will be the first Blu Ray recorder customers.

    Nobody, nobody can dare to lose a PIXEL, single PIXEL. That is how you work in professional World.

    Dear BillG if you are reading this: FIRE whoever came with that idea. Even Microsoft does not deserve to be robbed like that.

    And people here (at geek sites) joked when Allume managed to come up with a lossless jpeg compressor. The camera manufacturer and memory manufacturer CARTEL insists on using JPEG , that is how you sell people 1 gigabyte memory cards but it is up to customer asking for jpeg 2000 format on equipment they buy.

    So, there is still JPEG, one company (one of their interns I heard) managed to compress it by 30% levels and people joked about them. 12/0725217 []

    Here is World's billions of dollars company coming up with a lossy format for PROFESSIONALS. I can only *shrug* sorry.

    Please Microsoft, introduce your "format" to professionals who has nothing to do with your businesses and watch them laugh at you.

    Even end users know RAW format.
  • by mysticgoat ( 582871 ) * on Thursday May 25, 2006 @10:04AM (#15401200) Homepage Journal

    The primary reason to favor jpg and gif over png on web pages is that png support in MSIE has not been very good. Go figure.

    I mostly use Paint Shop Pro (v8.x) for image development (I started with PSP more than a decade ago). The lossless png format with layers, alpha, etc appears to be a solid format for use during image manipulation and for archiving-- but it is less convenient than PSP's proprietary format so I haven't done much with it. Yet. As I'm in the process of a very slow migration to GIMP, I expect I'll be using png more "in house". Converting my archived development images (that can run to 12 MB or more, what with all the layers, etc) to png will probably be the best way to move them from PSP to GIMP. If I can do all my development in png, then I'll be pretty certain that I can access my archived images from any image manipulation software I'm likely to use in the future (it is unlikely that I'd ever use an MS product... but PhotoShop, or something from Canon or Kodak might be in my future).

    But to get back to your question-- I can't think of any reason except poor browser support for not using the png format. And poor browser support is increasingly a thing of the past (Firefox, Opera, etc are continually improving png capabilities and rendering speeds).

  • by Danathar ( 267989 ) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @10:13AM (#15401273) Journal
    Since the use of compression is to compensate for lack of either 1) Storage or 2)Bandwidth I have to wonder how useful having a tighter compression format for pictures would be. Computers are faster, hard drives larger, broadband quicker. I'd like to see better LOSSLESS compression than lossy comrpession.
  • WMP Not Free! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by grimborg ( 975596 ) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @10:14AM (#15401282)

    GIF wasn't good enough because it was not free. WM* formats are Not Free. We should not even consider takeing into account formats that will ssteal our freedom. MP3 is not good enough, but we have Vorbis which is free and far better (about twice as quality as MP3, try 64kbps OGG and they sound good enough; try 64kbps MP3 and you'll agree with me).

    So yes, a new format which is free? A good thing indeed. A new non-free format? No thanks. Nothing to see here. /moves along)

  • by madnuke ( 948229 ) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @10:26AM (#15401387)
    Sounds like another Windows Meta file scenario....
  • Re:Ummmm why? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by dominator ( 61418 ) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @10:31AM (#15401424) Homepage
    If you click the 'I agree' it takes you to download some file that ends in ".DOC" - since I couldnt find any specifications for *that* file, I wasnt able to read them.

    B.S. The docs were available on MSDN for years, and are now available elsewhere as well. How'd you think that OOo, AbiWord, KWord, and the like (largely) got their DOC support to where it is today? [] []

    Don't spread FUD. You don't know what you're talking about enough to do an effective job of it.
  • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF ( 813746 ) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @10:39AM (#15401502)

    PDF may be open, but until it stops sucking I will continue to open a google cache version of a pdf before I will open one directly.

    You seem to be confusing the crappy software you are running with a file format. Internet Explorer sucks at properly rendering HTML and is full of security holes. Is that the fault of HTML or the fault of MS who wrote the program and users who don't download a better browser?

    Download a decent PDF reader already.

  • Re:Ummmm why? (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 25, 2006 @10:44AM (#15401549)

    # If we'd all said that GIF was good enough, PNG wouldn't have happened.
    # If we'd all said that ZIP was good enough, RAR and 7z wouldn't have happened.
    # If we'd all said that WAV was good enough, MP3 wouldn't have happened.
    # If we'd all said that MP3 was good enough, AAC wouldn't have happened.

    GIF was good enough. PNG exists because the world is full of geeks who think that they are lawyers.
    ZIP is good enough. RAR and 7z (and bz2 and ...) are stupid.
    WAV is not a compressed format. Apples and oranges.
    MP3 is good enough. AAC is evil. (hint - the difference isn't quality, it is control)
  • Re:Cool (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ToxicBanjo ( 905105 ) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @10:47AM (#15401588)
    No, it's that file size doesn't matter to YOU... ask any network admin if file size matters and you'll get the right answer. A couple of KB off a file for you is nothing, but multiply that by all the people on the Internet and you cn see how a couple of KB quickly becomes terabytes of content conjesting the network. Not to mention webmasters who have to watch their monthly bandwidth like a hawk or have their site inexcessible! File size does matter.
  • he he he try this! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by lon3st4r ( 973469 ) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @10:55AM (#15401660)
    From the License Agreement
    1. You may review these Materials only (a) as a reference to assist You in planning and designing Your product, service or technology ("Product") to interface with a Microsoft product, specification, service or technology ("Microsoft Product") as described in these Materials; and (b) to provide feedback on these Materials to Microsoft. All other rights are retained by Microsoft; this Agreement does not give You rights under any Microsoft patents. You may not (i) duplicate any part of these Materials, (ii) remove this Agreement or any notices from these Materials, or (iii) give any part of these Materials, or assign or otherwise provide Your rights under this Agreement, to anyone else.

    they're indicating that they already might have patents on this.

    he he he

    try clicking on the "I do not accept this agreement".. ha ha ha!! their web version of BSOD!

  • by Locutus ( 9039 ) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @12:08PM (#15402355)
    not agreeing to the license terms on Microsofts site for this results in a web page on something called Microsofts XPS Document format which they claim is an open and cross-platform specification. We all know that MS Cross-Platform means it works across all supported versions of Microsoft Windows but this MS Open xxxxx convention is getting alot of air time these days.

    It would be an interesting list to see just how often Microsoft claims one if its products are "open" or names a product/feature with the "open" name...

    Microsoft Open Packaging
    Microsoft Office Open XML Formats
    Microsoft Open License Program
    Microsoft Open Volume Licenses
    Microsoft Open Academic MS Open License 6.0 Academic Edition
    Microsoft Open Database Connectivity ( might be ODBC related and might not count )
    Microsoft Open License Value
    Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, Open Text ( included since they seem to be VERY close to MS )
    Microsoft Open Source Software Lab ( explains why MS Marketing Corp is using 'open' so much )

    There's probably much more but wow, I really didn't think it had gone THIS far.


  • Re:Ummmm why? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Overly Critical Guy ( 663429 ) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @01:07PM (#15402941)
    (Oh, and expect PNG support in IE7 to be downgraded)

    Actually, this explains why PNG has been crippled for so very long in IE. They didn't want PNG to gain a foothold before they could introduce their unwanted Microsoft version.

    I don't know what Microsoft is thinking. Their own image format? That's the last thing they should be introducing right now. This company is full of lunatics.
  • Re:Ummmm why? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Gumber ( 17306 ) on Thursday May 25, 2006 @02:58PM (#15403944) Homepage
    This gives me an interesting idea. What about setting up firefox to provide it's own terms of use as part of the HTTP request header. Something to the effect of "By providing content in response to this HTTP request, you agree to not impose any bullshit terms of use on me."
  • Re:Ummmm why? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Fordiman ( 689627 ) <fordiman AT gmail DOT com> on Thursday May 25, 2006 @05:32PM (#15405349) Homepage Journal
    I can confirm that PNG and MNG both work properly in IE7 Beta.
  • Re:Ummmm why? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ceoyoyo ( 59147 ) on Friday May 26, 2006 @12:20AM (#15407499)
    I'm not sure how you're using the word circular.

    Generally when you're talking about signal processing and you mention a circular transform it means that the transform assumes your last sample and first sample are adjacent... like the old video games where if you flew off the right side of the screen you'd appear back on the left side.

    Fourier (and DC) transforms are circular (they're basically circular convolutions). That can obviously lead to artefacts on the edges of the patch you're transforming because the transform is treating that edge as if it were connected to the other edge of the patch when ACTUALLY it's connected to the edge of the next patch over. Because a wavelet uses the equivalent of a window that changes sizes, each frequency has the edge in a different place so there isn't such a break.
  • by mysticgoat ( 582871 ) * on Friday May 26, 2006 @02:12AM (#15407840) Homepage Journal

    PNG is really only suitable for line art...

    Others in this discussion have pointed out that PNG has a truecolor mode as well as the 256 color and lower modes. The only differences I've noticed when I've been working with portraits and landscape photos in PNGs rather than JPGs are

    1. Some image manipulation software takes a little longer to open a PNG than a JPG
    2. PNGs do not degrade over multiple editing sessions the way that JPGs do

In less than a century, computers will be making substantial progress on ... the overriding problem of war and peace. -- James Slagle