Last Updated Jan 12, 2011 5:01 PM EST
H.264 is important because it represents the controversy over how to deliver video under HTML 5 -- the future of how content is created and delivered to browsers. My BNET colleague Chris Dannen thinks that Google's decision has much to do with potential licensing costs for sites -- like YouTube -- that broadcast video.
However, sites that stream video without charging users got a permanent pass on license costs last summer. A brief read of the MPEG LA licensing terms confirms this:
In the case of Internet Broadcast AVC Video (AVC Video that is delivered via the Worldwide Internet to an End User for which the End User does not pay remuneration for the right to receive or view, i.e., neither Title-by-Title nor Subscription), there will be no royalty for the life of the License.The issue is not money. (Even if Google were to pay for using H.264, the top license fees are immaterial compared to its revenue.)
No, this is entirely about control. Both Microsoft (MSFT) and Apple (AAPL) have aligned with the H.264 camp. Google is a competitor to both and basically wants whatever they don't want. Should technology favor its own WebM open video standard, both Microsoft and Apple would either have to scramble to add support or try to walk away from Web-delivered video (much as Apple has walked away from Adobe (ADBE) Flash).
Google has a difficult task ahead of it. The company claims that its WebM patents are all that a company would need, but it doesn't offer indemnification in case of a patent infringement suit, as free and open source software expert Florian Mueller notes. This issue has become more pointed as some smartphone vendors that use Google's Android operating system have been sued for alleged patent infringement by Apple and Microsoft. Web sites will be wary of using a technology that might land them in court.
- What Spooked Google into Dropping H.264 from Chrome?
- Microsoft Tries to Slow Down Google: Releases a Firefox Video Plug-In
- H.264 Video Backers Try a PR Coup, but It May Backfire
- Google's Internet Video Gambit: Supporting Everything Really Means Supporting Nothing
- Web Video Wars: Apple and Microsoft Team Up to Kill Off Firefox and Opera
- HTML 5: Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Adobe Fight to Rule the Web
- How HTML 5 Will Change the Web and Why It Matters