Update 5:15 p.m. PDT Friday: Adobe requested minor adjustments to quotations, and I obliged.
Adobe Systems' Digital Negative (DNG) format isn't a competitor to JPEG XR, a format Microsoft created as a higher-end replacement for conventional JPEG, an Adobe executive has predicted.
"I wouldn't label the two formats as competitive," said Tom Hogarty, product manager for Photoshop Lightroom, in an e-mail interview. He believes that not only is the case now, but more significantly, will be the case in the future as well.
DNG is Adobe's attempt to standardize the profusion of proprietary "raw" formats that give owners of higher-end cameras the option to process image data on their own computers instead of leaving it to the camera, which throws away a lot of data in the conversion to JPEG. JPEG XR, formerly known as Windows Media Photo and HD Photo, is Microsoft's attempt to create a higher-quality sequel to JPEG; JPEG XR likely will be standardized by the same neutral group that did so with ordinary JPEG.
Although JPEG XR and DNG are largely in separate domains, statements from Adobe and Microsoft indicate some potential for some overlap in the future.
According to Robert Rossi, Microsoft's principal program manager for emerging image and video technology, with JPEG XR, "You're giving people much of the capability of raw in a convenient file format. On the ultra-high-end there might be still a preference to use raw."
But in an earlier interview with Dave Story, Adobe's vice president of digital-imaging product development, he said raw is headed to a broader market as customers demand more image quality. "For a consumer camera, megapixels are not the ultimate goal. You can get a 10-megapixel camera for $400... We're shifting now to 'How do I get an edge on quality?' That's why raw formats exist. It's starting at the top and working its way down," he said. DNG will help enable that future by helping to avoid the "Tower of Babel" of different raw formats, he argued.
Hogarty, though, doesn't see JPEG XR and DNG on a collision course. Rather, he envisions three levels of image quality coexisting.
"The proposed JPEG XR solution will certainly provide increased quality for consumers using the current JPEG 8-bit format. But for serious photographers I don't see a significant amount of overlap between the value and flexibility that DNG (or proprietary raw formats) currently offer and the proposed JPEG XR solution," Hogarty said.
JPEG XR, he said, improves on JPEG limitations such as its inability to record more than 8 bits of data per color, providing a relatively coarse 256 levels between complete darkness and complete brightness. But it's no raw replacement.
"I think it's more important to determine which format suits the customer needs," Hogarty said. "Based on what I understand about JPEG XR, it would appear to be targeting the replacement of low-bit-depth JPEG files rather than encroaching on raw file format usage."