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H.264: The next big thing

April 29 was pretty big day for all of us who make our living in the net. We all had the great privilege to see the arch-rivals in the industry, Microsoft and Apple, both of them supporting the same cause. Perhaps they called it in their own ways, but I call it simply, the future of Internet video- H.264.

On Thursday morning, Steve Jobs published his article “Thought on Flash” in the Apple blog. He made it very clear about Apple’s stand on Flash. Why apple will not/ is not supporting flash in their iPhones, and many more.

As soon as the article was released, folks began to tweet about Jobs article and the future of flash. The hype didn’t last long. The very afternoon, General Manager of the Internet Explorer division, Dean Hachamovitch published his thoughts on flash. Or rather, his article spoke loudly that his thoughts are “not on flash”.

Now, this calls for a party. Its perhaps for the first time, the arch-rivals have come forth, almost simultaneously to support a cause/technology. Aaaand…. the toast goes to H.264, the video format which is going to show videos to the future generations.

But then again, the doubts about the quality, stability and usability of the comparatively new technology H.264 comes into picture. Dean anticipated that the questions would come, and that is exactly why he explained the answers well before hand.

“We think it is the best available video codec today for HTML5 for our customers. Relative to alternatives, H.264 maintains strong hardware support in PCs and mobile devices”.

Plus, all the new Graphic Processing Units have encoded H.264 in the hardware right from the beginning. If you ask me for proof, nVidia decoded H.264 way back in 2006. It is this additional power that both Microsoft and Apple are vying to tap.

Another good news, especially from Steve is that the H.264 drains lesser battery out of the iPhone/iPad(remember, battery life was one of the major headaches he had with iPxxx). So, better performance, lesser battery. What is stopping us then!! Go for it!!, thought Steve.

So, we’ll have better videos in H.264 pretty soon, right? Nope. Truth is, we’ve already started using it. The H.264 video format has a very broad application range that covers almost all forms of digital compressed video from low bit-rate Internet streaming applications to HDTV broadcast.

All the digital satellite TVs (DTHs) are now using H.264. There are citations which report bit rate savings of 50% with its usage. For example, the DTH bitrate which was 3.5Mbits/s is now only less than 1.5 Mbits/sec.

Concluding, I would say, it has been around for quite some time. But its only now, that we understand and realize the true potential and quality of our pal,the present and future of Internet television- H.264.



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