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Google TV & H.264

Discussion in 'More News from Your Google TV News Team' started by Rickaren, Jan 19, 2011.

  1. Rickaren

    Rickaren New Member Staff Member

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    Google and H.264: You Would Have Dropped It As Well

    Wolfgang Gruener in Business on January 19

    The fact that Google had the guts to openly announce that it will be dropping H.264 HTML5 video support from Chrome has caused quite a bit of controversy, which was, conceivably, based on bias and emotions. As the announcement digests, it is clear that Google it makes a lot of sense for the company to ignore the format. And, quite frankly, if you were in Google’s shoes, you would have done it as well.
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    I am pretty sure that Google had no idea what outrage its announcement would cause. Users, analysts and many writers, including us, were quick to point out that the shortsighted move to hit Apple or Microsoft and would damage Google in the long term while the interests of the users are left behind. At some point, we have to admit that we were wrong and Google’s decision will not impact the user, but may be a competitive move that takes advantage of Google’s dominance in the browser market. And yes, those 10% market of its Chrome browser are enough to force Microsoft to rethink its strategy as Microsoft may have lost the browser war already.


    Quite frankly, I believe that most reactions to Google’s announcement were no educated, but purely emotional and fueled by the fear that Google is taking something away that we are used to. Take a toy from you small child and you will get a tantrum and tears in return – just because of the act itself and not because it does not make sense. Google’s move was a product and business decision and we users as well as rivals, including Microsoft, should treat it as such.


    Let’s look at the possible negative impact of dropping (native) H.264 in Chrome and what “evil” strategy could be behind this decision. Your best argument would be a shot against Apple and Microsoft, as both are the strong supporters of H.264 and two of the 26 patent holders of H.264 technology. Why support a tech that requires up to $6.5 million in annual license fees and fund your enemies, if you do not have to? There was a claim that Google could be using this move as pressure on the MPEG LA to angle for a free H.264 license. And we hear that it could be a move to shoot against Apple’s HTML5 strategy and lift the relevance of Flash as Google’s flash plug-in will continue to play H.264 whether Google removes H.264 support from Chrome or not. Then there is the claim that Google wants to simply get some ROI from its own WebM and doesn’t care about users who would want H.264 playback. Dear user, tough luck.


    All those possibilities could be, of course, valid reasons for Google, but I think there was something else, something much more simple. Google has also released a more detailed explanation of the motivation and effect of dropping H.264.


    The true problem may, in fact, be the licensing scheme that could cost Google millions of dollars each year and would not end until 2028. The licensing terms for AVC/H.264 are fairly complex and granular. Currently, that license is free for Internet video that is free to end users until at least December 31, 2015. Of course, it is not free for Google.
    If you think about it, that is potentially a lot of money down the drain and into the hands of Google’s competitors. 17 or 18 years of payments put Google’s expense into the triple digits – and that is without potential increases of license fees. Could Google use the same money and develop its own format and try to push it into the market? Sure.


    I read one story who claimed that Google’s open web claims are silly as it could easily pay those $6.5M per year given its monumental revenues. However, I have yet to find one CFO who would give me millions of dollars on something that does not need to be spent and something that sounds like a bad investment anyway. Even with Google’s fortunes, I find it unlikely that this argument works. Personally, if there are millions of dollars collecting dust at Google, I would rather see that money going to charity than to silly license fees for a product that should be free to use for the web community.
    The question, of course, is, does Google have the power to push H.264? It has and here is why.


    AVC/H.264 is only supported by Microsoft’s IE9 browser as well as Safari. Right now, that is less than 6% of overall browser market share. I have explained in the past why I believe that Microsoft screwed itself by limiting IE9 to Vista and Windows7 and not extending it to Windows XP, which still occupies about 50% of the global OS market. Given the fact that it has taken IE8 21 months to hit 33% market share with XP support (according to net Applications), my bold estimate would be that IE9 will not hit that much share without XP support. We are estimating a cap of about 30% for IE9 here – in a best case scenario, while Safari is not growing fast enough to help Microsoft – especially since Safari seems to be cannibalizing IE8 share anyway. So, a best scenario for Microsoft may be about 40% of the browser market down the road as far as H.264 support is concerned. The rest will be old and new browsers that will not support H.264 - including Chrome, Firefox and Opera. Mozilla and Opera have expressed their support for WebM already, which puts Google’s format at a potential 34% of market share almost immediately. We should not forget that Google said that it will be providing IE plugins to support WebM.


    There is definitely room for Google to explore its power and H.264 looks a bit lost with IE9 and Safari. Simply because of this scenario, my bet would be that the world will be moving toward WebM and there is nothing Microsoft and Apple can do about it. In some way, Microsoft shot itself in the foot.


    There has been another claim that the browser market is not just about the PC. That is true, but then we also know that Google said that it will not be removing H.264 support from Android, which means that smartphones and Google TV will still support the format. However, WebM just recently received a hardware acceleration API that clearly aims at appliances and smartphones and it is just a matter of time until H.264 will fade away from these devices as well. No reason to be upset: There is always Flash that can fill in.




    If you were Google, you would drop H.264 as well. It makes financial sense and it makes sense for Chrome and the user.


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  2. Rickaren

    Rickaren New Member Staff Member

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    Review: Google TV

    January 19 2011
    Despite asking its hardware partners not to show new Google TV devices at CES, Google has said that this is the year that Google TV will be available outside the US.
    But if the first international Google TV devices are like the $300 Logitech Revue that’s currently shipping in the US, will you want one when you can buy it?


    The idea behind Google TV is to take the TV screen and the TV channels you already have and add the web, complete with Flash and HTML 5, web content like YouTube and a search interface that brings it all together.


    What you get is an interface running on top of a derivative of Android 2.1 plus Chrome rather than the Android browser – but still with Flash 10.1 built in.
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    That’s all running on an Intel Atom CE4150 processor with hardware accelerated video encoding and decoding (for H.264 but not for WebM) rather than the ARM processor we’re used to seeing Android on. And that means that not only is the Revue’s case large enough to fit in a full set of connectors – HDMI in, HDMI out, Ethernet, two USB ports, two IR blaster ports and SPDIF – it also has air vents and a fan (although you won’t notice it over the sound of your TV).


    Most add-on media streaming boxes that you plug into your TV, like Apple TV and Boxee systems, leave you to control your TV separately, with its original remote.
    Google TV is more like Windows Media Centre (or the Windows Media Center-based set-top boxes that will be out this year), where you get one remote control for working with both TV and online content, and you can see TV shows (from a cable TV or set-top box but not broadcast channels, at least on the systems we tested) full screen or in a picture-in-picture window, via the HDMI port.
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    The Revue has the advantage of Logitech’s Harmony remote technology; tell it the model of your TV, set-top box or AV receiver (easier said than done if you’ve got a flatscreen mounted on the wall) and it looks them up in its online database and lets you control them from the Revue remote.


    It’s limited to controlling three IR devices, but it does mean you only have one remote to find space for. But that remote is actually a full size QWERTY keyboard, which is going to put off a number of mainstream users straight away.


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