Is "working on it" just open source FUD?

Summary:The way to get to a royalty-free codec is to start with H.261, which was approved in 1989, outside the 17-year patent window. They can't use H.264, the latest implementation (used in MPEG4) because that requires payment of royalties.

Open Media Stack
Sun is pondering an open source codec. No they're really working on it.

It even has a name. Open Media Stack. Part of the Open Media Commons initiative. Oh, it's royalty free. Look, here's a blog post. And a news release. (And a diagram, from the blog post.)

The way to get to a royalty-free codec is to start with H.261, a video compression standard approved in 1989, outside the 17-year patent window. They can't look at H.264 (used in MPEG4) because that requires payment of royalties.

So we go back a full human generation and grow from there. Probably with Xith Vorbis.

All of which sounds wonderful, except for one thing. Who's paying for all this work?

Sun indicates it's contributing, but how long will it take for them to replicate 20 years of codec progress on its own? And who is helping?

Asked all these interesting questions at last week's Open House Rob Glidden, global alliance manager for TV & Media at Sun, made an unintentioned funny. "Stay tuned," he said.

Smells like open source FUD to me.

Now wait, you say. Unfair, you say. Great projects start with a vision and a sponsor. Here Sun is offering both. Plus a structure in which to get it done.

Lemony Snicket, A Series of Unfortunate Events, from Amazon.com
All true. But with no clue on budgets, and no timelines, we're also staying tuned while the world goes on without us. Those royalty-bearing codecs aren't sitting still, and there are royalties to fund their development.

I would be far less skeptical and snarky on this if, say, Google were making the announcement. They have the money and bodies to get this done lickety-split.

I'm just afraid that with Sun we might be talking more Lemony Snicket.

Topics: Open Source, Oracle

About

Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist since 1978, and has covered technology since 1982. He launched the Interactive Age Daily, the first daily coverage of the Internet to launch with a magazine, in September 1994.

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