5 Comments

Summary:

Google’s new Ice Cream Sandwich version of Android will natively play WebM video streams and MKV files. However, don’t expect your Android handset to support all those files you downloaded from The Pirate Bay any time soon; the new codec support largely targets developers.

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Here’s a small nugget about Android 4.0, also known as Ice Cream Sandwich, that hasn’t gotten much play yet: The mobile OS now natively supports the playback of MKV files as well as streaming of Googe’s WebM video format (hat tip to Richard Lawler). The changes were announced through an updated list of supported media formats on the Android developer website.

MKV is an open container format for video files that has become particularly popular with people who download HD movies or TV shows from the Internet. However, don’t expect your Ice Cream Sandwich handset to natively play all your BitTorrent downloads; the MKV support in Android 4.0 is restricted to MKV files that use Google’s VP8 codec, which is also used in WebM.

Google released WebM under an open-source license in early 2010, which is based on the company’s VP8 video codec. The format has since slowly gained traction; YouTube, for example, has converted almost all of its videos to WebM, and Skype is using VP8 as its default codec for video conferencing.

Adding support for WebM streaming and VP8 MKVs shouldn’t matter as much to end users, but it should lead to an increased adoption of the formats among developers. VP8 has been optimized for real-time video applications, which means video conferencing app developers now have an option to rely on a royalty-free codec on new Android handsets.

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  1. The Digital Pimp Wednesday, October 19, 2011

    All so well and good, but I keep wondering when they will also put DRM into the platform to help spark content sales. My company has the “joy” of grafting on DRM for video (which is painful and resource intensive.) Soon they will own two DRMs: Widevine & Motorola’s Secure Media. We were hoping they would make a move with the ‘Sandwich. Oh well.

  2. WebM was supported since Android 2.3. It’s still a software decoding implementation; sluggish in terms of performance. The two tiny enhancements in ICS (MKV support and WebM streaming) are quite irrelevant to video publishers.

    The much bigger deal is HTTP Live Streaming, which is now brought to phones (and hopefully made to work more stable). When ICS gains traction, publishers will be able to leverage HLS for encrypted, adaptive streaming to the two biggest mobile platform: Android and iOS.

    1. you may want to reach out to sales@widevine.com they may be able to help you with ICS drm.

    2. Totally – you should write the authoritative summary & status on this and get everyone to see it for what it is. This is good but we need more http://www.longtailvideo.com/support/blog/22745/html5-video-still-not-there-yet-but-making-headway

  3. I just upgraded my T-Mobile NS (via Koushik Dutta’s update file, not the OTA one) and MKVs, sadly, aren’t playing for me. Makes me wonder what was meant by “natively.”

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