Apple CEO Steve Jobs apparently lacks faith in Google's newly announced VP8 WebM video codec, reportedly citing a developer blog post that condemns the codec as slow, buggy and at risk for patent violations. Google is backing the VP8 WebM codec for HTML5 video, using the high-profile platform of the Google I/O developer conference to tout the software's open-source bona fides.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs apparently hinted in
an e-mail message that he believes Google's VP8 WebM video codec is slow, buggy
and at risk for patent violations. That e-mail was a response to one sent by a
software engineer, asking, "What did you make of the recent VP8
During the Google I/O developer conference, Google said it will push the now
apparently open-source VP8 WebM codec for HTML5 video. Originally developed by On2 Technologies, acquired
by Google in February, VP8 is touted by some as an efficient way to
compress Web video.
"Overall, VP8 appears to be significantly weaker than H.264
compression-wise," that blog's author, Jason Garrett-Glaser, a primary
x264 developer and a third-year student at Harvey
said in a May 19 post. "The primary weaknesses mentioned above are the
lack of proper adaptive quantization, lack of B-frames, lack of an 8x8
transform and a nonadaptive loop filter."
The post also pointed out a potential patent issue. "VP8 is simply way too
similar to H.264: A pithy, if slightly inaccurate, description of VP8 would be 'H.264
Baseline Profile with a better entropy encoder,'" Garrett-Glaser wrote. "Though
I am not a lawyer, I simply cannot believe that they will be able to get away
with this, especially in today's overly litigious day and age."
During a May 18 keynote address during the Google I/O developer conference,
Sundar Pichai, vice president of product management at Google, said, "HTML5
is everywhere. The question is: How do we make use of that?"
Google's apparent answer is to back the VP8 codec. Adobe and Microsoft have
also indicated that they will support the format; in the latter's case, the
user will need to install a VP8 codec on Windows in order for Internet Explorer
9 to support playback of VP8 video. Additionally, Google, Opera Software,
Adobe, Brightcove and other companies have established the WebM Project, which
touts itself as "dedicated to developing a high-quality, open video format
for the Web that is freely available to everyone."
Pichai told the audience that Google would open-source VP8 under "a
completely open-source license."
Further developments will show whether Google's vision of an open-source VP8
WebM codec will mesh well with reality. Whether or not the situation descends
into a patent-infringement battle, though, one thing is apparent: The codec
likely won't have a supporter in Steve Jobs.
Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.