JPEG2000 Done in by Microsoft??

Microsoft is trying to proprietize/control the next level of digital photo storage format with their new WMP/WDP format. Now for at least 3 years JPEG2000 has been available and Microsoft has taken a raincheck on JPEG2000, no reasons given.We have raised the issue of Redmonds bypassing JPEG2000 many times here. Maybe its too slow as now has come out as the “new reason” that Office 2007 will not support the industry standard ODF-Open Document Format. But Microsofts Bill Crow was not telling at the WinHEC announcement of WMP/WDP.

In this report from EETimes says WMP/WDP is Microsoft`s new replacement for JPEG by way of Microsoft Research and WMP/WDP will outperform JPEG by 2 to 1. But there is no mention in the story of the currently available JPEG2000 which does as well if not better than the new WMP/WDP format. Microsofts Bill Crow was remiss in his announcement at WinHEC by not mentioning and providing comprehensive comparisons of the major competition in JPEG2000 and other proprietary formats from Lizard Tech and others. Given that JPEG2000 is already available from all the major graphics firms – read Adobe, Autodesk,Canon, Corel, Sony, Ulead and dozens of others graphics providers – this is a serious omission. Of course there were no detailed comparisons of WMP/WDP with JPEG2000 cited in the story. And as for getting these ISVs and OEMs on board for source licensing WMP will be a most interesting game of thin edge of the wedge bargaining.

But even of more impotantance, this announcement follows a trend on new software from Microsoft. It appears that Microsoft is taking the approach with Vista that if you adopt Vista you will be buying ever more into the 1 Microsoft Way – that is “most apps run in Windows, but Microsoft apps run best in Windows” and “standards on the desktop should be made by Microsoft, and Microsoft alone – we own the market.” Thus XUL and SVG were replaced with XAML, ODF with Open XML, and now JPEG2000 with WMP. Increasingly Microsoft sees no need nor reason to explain why it is not supporting the industry wide standards. Thus, Microsoft is taking the approach that with 90% desktop OS and Office and Web Browser market share (“okay we slipped to 80%; but trust us, with IE7 we will be back to 90%++”) – Microsoft is the computing standards setters, like it or not.

Whats Needed Now

Given the very sloppy and short-sighted reporting in the trade press and blogs (see immediately below) on the nature of WMP (major sin, everybody ignores already available and industry adopted JPEG2000 and s superior compression and other functional features and performance) and competing technologies , what is needed now is a thorough comparison of JPEG2000, JPEG, PNG and other competing photo compression technologies versus WMP/WDP. This exercise should consider quality vs compression using a variety of image types(portrait, landscape, city, and wide variety of photos; text primarily on different solid backdrops; vector images with many solid, banded and gradient color fills converted to lossless BMP/PNG/TIFF as starting point; black and white or grayscale images, duotones, etc). It also shoul consider the time to do the compression. Finally, but just as important, is the licensing terms and costs to OEMs and ISVs – because these costs get passed on to consumers. I have been watching and dpreview.comaong others for just such a technical comparison – as of the date of this posting, nothing yet.

However, what may be giving the trade press and others pause about doing a full comparison is the following licensing agreement which is attached to the download of the WMP/WDP spec on Microsofts Windows Hardware Development site. Here is the crucial clause:

For good and valuable consideration, the receipt and sufficiency of which are acknowledged, You and Microsoft agree as follows:

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.

Since there appears to be no other download of WMP/WDP software available, it appears that Microsoft is doing a variation on the old “you can talk about our software, but only the way we want – but no benchmarks with compeing technology. And be careful of what you say based on downloading and reading our specs. ”

(c)JBSurveyer 2006

Reporting on this announcement has been sloppy in the blogs and trade press alike. A number of media outlets have failed to take Microsoft up on why they rejected JPEG2000 when JPEG2000 performs as well or better in compression than Microsfts new WMP/WDP while having the same or better processing attributes. Other media outlets that took the Redmond bait and failed to mention JPEG2000 as competing/better technology:

Information Week repeats the EETimes story
MacRumor misses the JPEG2000 side of the story
The Photography Blog
PCWorlds Harry McCracken knows about the existence of JPEG2000
; but that is about all. Nothing about Microsofts refusal to implement JPEG2000 while all the graphics industry adopts it.
Digital Media Thoughts Jason Dunn is also short on knowledge of JPEG2000s performance but has an interesting take.
Even heavyweights and Microsoft-Watch so far have missed the boat.
Infoworld missed the critical JPEG2000 side of the story too. Is the IT tradepress becoming stretched too thin ??
NeoWin misses JPEG2000 as WMP rival. This is typical of blog coverage

In contrast, ZDNet at least got JPEG2000 in their story and mentioned the tough licensing issue.

But the best assessment os far on this WMP versus JPEG2000 issue is here – Jak Boumans, a Dutch developer living on Buziaulane.