Microsoft: On Second Thought, We’ll Support VP8 After All

Microsoft (s MSFT) might not have been one of the companies named during the introduction of Google’s (s GOOG) WebM Project earlier today. However, despite earlier statements, the software giant said it would support the newly released, open source VP8 video codec in addition to H.264 in the next version of its web browser.

Microsoft became a big proponent of H.264 with the introduction of Internet Explorer 9, which will be the first version of the browser to support HTML5 video playback. That stance seemed further cemented just a few weeks ago, when Internet Explorer general manager Dean Hachamovitch wrote that the next version of the browser would only support the H.264 codec for playback of HTML5 video. That blog post threw into doubt any possibility of IE9 support VP8, the widely expected — but not-yet-announced — open source codec from Google.

Hachamovitch later wrote another blog entry to clarify Microsoft’s position, leaving open the possibility that it could change its stance. In that post, he wrote that Microsoft would “be open to considering other codecs” if there was enough industry support for an H.264 alternative and any related legal uncertainties had been resolved.

Well it appears that with today’s announcement of the launch of the WebM Project and open sourcing of VP8, Google has quelled any fears that Microsoft might have had, since Hachamovitch has revised his position once again. In a new blog post today, Hachamovitch wrote that IE9 would support VP8 in addition to H.264 for HTML5 video playback. While he wrote that IE9 wouldn’t have native support for VP8, the browser will enable playback of VP8 video if a user had installed the codec on his PC.

The money quote is here:

“We are strongly committed to making sure that in IE9 you can safely view all types of content in all widely used formats. When it comes to video and HTML5, we’re all in. In its HTML5 support, IE9 will support playback of H.264 video as well as VP8 video when the user has installed a VP8 codec on Windows.”

With Microsoft now at least partly on board for playing back VP8 on HTML5 video pages, there’s only one major vendor in the space that has yet to offer at least some backing for the WebM Project — Apple (s AAPL). However, given that company’s big bets on H.264 — and CEO Steve Jobs’ threats that patent pools could “go after” open source codecs like Ogg Theora, it seems unlikely that Apple will join the VP8 party anytime soon.

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