Microsoft seeks to standardise the HD Photo

Written by Brett Thomas

March 9, 2007 | 08:49

Tags: #standard

Companies: #jpeg #microsoft

Al Gore may have invented the internet and Senator Stevens may have given it the tubes and trucks, but you need images for it to be any good. And that's why Microsoft is shooting to give you the new and improved HD Photo format, its answer to the JPEG. In fact, it's so sure you're going to like the format, it's pushing it to become a standard.

If you have somehow missed HD Photo, I'm not entirely surprised. The format is over a year old, originally pitched as part of the Windows Media formats (WMA and WMV). It fell rather flatly on its face, though, and many people blame the name. "Windows Media Photo" just doesn't sound like a standard - it sounds like a Windows product.

In order to change its bad-boy image (pardon the pun), Microsoft changed the format to HD Photo. It actually holds several important features including HDR, 32-bit color, and CMYK and other ICC profiles (aside from RGB, which is the only one that JPEG supports). Most importantly, though, its compression is considerably more efficient than JPEG.

Essentially, HD Photo contains everything that one would look for in a replacement for JPEG, which has started to really show its age. With the increased size of those tubes, bandwidth is no longer quite as much an issue. And thanks to some tremendous increases in both image capture and display technology, JPEG artifacts are beginning to become much more visible. The biggest problem Micrsoft is likely to face then is not its format, but its namesake - the guys over at Redmond have never been very good at playing nice with licenses, and are very capable of strong-arming the competition.

In spite of these worries, it seems that the new format is getting some traction. Adobe has added it to its Photoshop support, and it's rumoured that some digital camera makers are considering it as a result. Whether HD photo takes off or it inspires some hasty competition, though, one thing is clear - the dominance of the JPEG is drawing to a close.

Have you got a thought on the new format? Are you a photographer and have tried working with it? Do you even think JPEG needs replaced? Tell us your experiences in our forums.
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