The next Apple-Microsoft Dog Fight

Apple and Microsoft have been indulging in dogfights for decades now. Mac OS versus DOS, and then Mac Vs Windows 3.1. Quicktime versus Windows Media. …. more recently AAC versus Microsoft Janus. And they will be going at each other in the converged home business. While attending the Mac World earlier this year, Steve Jobs was pushing the H.264 standard for high-definition media playback with the same zeal as he pushed the new Mac Mini. It did not make sense at the time, why he devoted so much time, and why he trotted out a Sony executive on stage. Well, a couple of weeks later it all falls into place. In a recent column, John Dvorak wrote:

If H.264 isn’t good enough, then there is the Microsoft VC-1 codec, derived from Windows Media 9 technology. By all accounts, it’s at least as good as, if not better than, H.264. It’s so good that the Blu-ray specification calls for it to be used jointly with H.264…. Manufacturers have to pay for each one installed in every unit. So how long will VC-1 and H.264 coexist in the same boxes when they do the same thing?

Not sure how this could evolve, but seems like actual availability of Microsoft VC-1 based products is still in the near future, while H.264 silicon has started to ship. Broadcom has been pushing H.264 pretty hard because it wants to get a piece of the telecom set-top box market. It says it will support the Microsoft codec when time comes. It might have to since many phone companies are toying with Microsoft backend systems for their television offerings.

H.264 advanced video compression technology. This standards-based technology reduces the required bandwidth for audio and video content to a level that allows telecommunications operators to offer digital quality broadcast services over their existing bandwidth limited digital subscriber networks.

This makes me wonder, why Apple was pushing H.264 so hard? It could be perhaps that it has its own digital media center/PVR plans?


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