Microsoft Unveils JPEG Rival

Microsoft has released details of a new file format for continuous-tone still images that it claims ‘surpasses the limitations of existing image formats’.

Treated as a replacement for JPEG in the forthcoming Windows Vista OS, Windows Media Photo promises to deliver “a lightweight, high performance algorithm with a small memory footprint that enables practical, in-device encoding and decoding”. Some Features of the new format include:

  • Support for multiple colour formats for display or print
  • Fixed or floating point high dynamic range image encoding
  • Lossless or high quality lossy compression
  • Extremely efficient decoding for multiple resolutions and sub-regions
  • Minimal overhead for format conversion or transformations during decode

Whether the new format will succeed or fail is debatable, given the current penetration of JPEG, which is effectively the default file format for all digital imaging. Attempts to introduce an improved version of JPEG, known as JPEG 2000, failed due to issues with patents and royalties. However, if Forgent’s claims on the patent underlying JPEG compression succeed, Windows Media Photo may have a chance – as long as it’s free. However, the majority of professional photographers (and serious enthusiasts) prefer shooting raw files and converting them to TIFF format, which reduces the relevance of JPEG to this critical market sector.

Sounds like an interesting JPEG competitor to me – finally.


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