May 31, 2006 3:19 PM PDT

Readers zoom in on Microsoft's JPEG rival

The world is ready for a new photo compression format to rival the ubiquitous JPEG, CNET News.com readers say.

But they're not so sure it should be a Microsoft product such as the new Windows Media Photo format, which promises better quality images at half the size as JPEG files.

In an unscientific poll asking whether a JPEG competitor is needed, almost half of the 5,621 voters said maybe, "but I'm concerned about it being a Microsoft product."

About 20 percent said, yes, "e-mail and Web pages need smaller files," and about 30 percent voted, no, "JPEG works just fine."

Related story
Microsoft shows off JPEG rival
New Windows Media Photo format promises better-quality images
at half the size of JPEG files.

The poll was in response to a story on the demonstration of Windows Media Photo last week at the Windows Hardware Engineering Conference. The compression technology will be supported in Windows Vista and made available for Windows XP.

The 135 reader comments on the story seemed to mirror poll results. Many agreed that new technology is a good thing, but can't get beyond its maker.

News.com Poll

Does the world need another photo compression format?

No, JPEG works just fine.
Yes, e-mail and Web pages need smaller files.
Maybe, but I'm concerned about it being a Microsoft product.



View results

"In the case of Microsoft, the concern must be, given Microsoft's abusive track record, pre-eminently the 'who,' and not the how or what of a proposed technology," one reader wrote. "Anyone who understands the usefulness of innovations such as the Web and the Internet must be wary of any proposed Microsoft 'standard.'"

Reader Peter Simpson added that no matter what the benefits are of Windows Media Photo, he's concerned about Redmond's "strong affinity for proprietary formats encumbered by Digital Restrictions Management."

"I'm concerned that, sometime in the future, Microsoft may hold my photos for ransom, requiring that I purchase an upgrade to view them," he wrote. "Or, even worse, that Microsoft may drop support for the format; and since it's proprietary, there wouldn't be any other viewers available."

A reader who went by the name "JohnUSA," said he'll only use the new format if it's proven without any doubt to be superior to JPEG, if it's completely free, forever, and if it's "without any strings or conditions or any **** that Microsoft may throw at its users...Simply put, I never, never trust Microsoft."

But another reader said it's time naysayers stop focusing on "nonsense argumentative junk such as the 'evil' Microsoft monopolies, 'open source is better' crap and lame positions that other alternatives exists so why bother."

"Let's be sober here in saying that anybody arguing that this isn't going to be a new standard, must be disillusioned. It will be a standard simply because Microsoft is going to have all its operating systems (XP and on) support it," the reader wrote. "Moreover and more importantly, Internet Explorer will support it (which is the undeniable king of the browsers when it comes to market penetration)."

Got views on Vista?

"Shao," is also impressed with Windows Media Photo, and just hopes it won't be held up by licensing issues.

"I, as an advanced amateur photographer with over 25 years with SLR cameras and a lot of past darkroom experience, am very impressed with the first information received here. No (loss) rotation, faster dSLR picture taking with this format, better compression with less quality loss," Shao wrote. "Definitely filling the gap between JPEG and RAW format. Seems too good to be true."

And others questioned why fix JPEG, if it ain't broke? "No need for another standard. JPEG is just fine for amateur photography," one reader wrote.

See more CNET content tagged:
JPEG, reader, Redmond, Windows Media, photograph

51 comments

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The poll shows economic ignorance
The poll shows economic ignorance, if not computer ignorance. Microsoft has the right to develop new products just like any other company. It's unfortuate that Microsoft competitors have been able to use the court system to keep Microsoft from competing with them. I'm suprised Sony hasn't sued Microsoft yet over the XBOX or asked the European Union to keep Microsoft from selling XBOXs in Europe. If Microsoft isn't safe, no company in a dominant industry position is safe either. Apple is the next industry leader to have a target on it's back. Just look at what is happening to them in France.
Posted by lingsun (482 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Not just dominant.
It isn't that they're dominant. It's that they control the very large majority of the industry (aka a Monopoly).
This means that anything they do influences the market, which is why they must be kept on a leash to ensure that they do not get a total monopoly. The same thing goes for Apple and iTunes, almost.
Posted by Tomcat Adam (272 comments )
Link Flag
What you have failed to mention...
is that Microsoft didn't create the Internet it was created using tax payers money. So the last thing we (the public) wants is to turn the Internet into a proprietry network where users end up being trapped by licensing etc.

At all costs, companies like Microsoft should be shunned by the public, Web development community, and the W3C.

Microsoft has proven time and time again that they are not to be trusted. Anyone who trusts them has is lacking foresight.

The Web is ours. Let's keep it that way.
Posted by t8 (3716 comments )
Link Flag
Color Space and more
The only component of this new format any talks about is the compression. I realize that for internet use this is a big issue but in my opinion it isn't all that important. The jpg compression works well enough for me, although I'm not going to complain about a better compression method. Almost everyone is missing most of the really great things about this format. I'm coming from the point of a serious digital photographer. There are many issues with jpg that make it hard to work with, so most serious photographers resort to a camera specific format (RAW). This makes sharing and storing difficult. Long term ability to use the RAW format is also a big question. Here are the features I'm excited that someone is finally addressing.

Color Space. Finally someone is making life easier. Graphic artist, photographers, print techs and alike are constantly trying to get the colors right and jpg doesn't make it easy. You can't define a color space so you never know if the image was encoded with Adobe RGB or sRGB. MS new format allows the color space to be defined. And not just certain color space, any color space you can come up with along with a gamut cruve. This is a huge step in the right direction.

Also associated with the color space is embedding ICC profiles. Another big plus that will help with getting the colors right.

Color bit depth. jpg will only work with 8 bits, no more no less. The new format offers a plethora of options, 5,8,16,32 bit depths. This is important when you are shooting with a DSLR and it has 12 bits. As soon as you encode it to jpg you loose a ton of dynamic range and information. This forces you to shoot in the camera's proprietary RAW format. This allows the user to adjust the depth as needed. Many internet images will only need 5 bits and the file size will decrease significantly. On the other hand their is no lossy 16 or 32 compression formats. You have to go to PSD or TIFF which are lossless and bulky. Its about time a 16 bit lossy file format is offered.

Lossless vs lossy compression. To get a lossless compression you have to go to TIF. JPG doesn't offer a lossless compression. It will be nice to have a single format that offers both depending upon the users needs.

A minor plus but the new format will allow multiple images within the same image. You could set up a slide slow presentation that everyone could read. There are numerous applications with this, use your imagination.

I'm not worried about Microsoft putting restrictions on consumer usage or requiring users to pay to see their own images. What I am worried about is after it becomes the defacto standard MS will start charging royalties to manufacturers. Every device and software that uses the format might one day have to pay royalties. This fear will keep many manufacturers wary of adopting the new standard. It doesn't translate much of an increase to the consumer but it can mean millions for manufacturers who now have to pay a $1 royalty on every camera they make. I wish the jpg format would have evolved to address the issues MS did, but they haven't and they have had plenty of time to do it. So MS stepped in and took advantage of it. Hopefully everyone's mistrust of MS won't keep people from using it and hopefully MS won't take advantage of people's trust in the future.

Mark
Posted by Striker77s (55 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Wrong on many counts...
JPEG supports up to 24 bits of color, not just 8. GIF is the one that
supports only 8 bits. Every JPG file I know of can have an
embedded color space profile. JPEG-2000, the successor to JPEG,
supports lossless compression.
Posted by OscarWeb (76 comments )
Link Flag
If your business is color you don't use JPG to begin with...
As far as I understand MS's new format is not lossless, it's just
less lossless if you know what you are telling it what to do.
There is a reason we work in PSD, TIF or RAW at the end of the
day no matter how many times we have had to tweak the file the
color AND quality are preserved. Any compression format will
degrade an image over time if you keep opening changing and
saving the file. I shoot and work in 48 bit depth I don't see that
as an option. Unless you have an ICC profile device to profile
your system and the printer at the end of the line is profiled with
the paper you want to use that day it's not worth it to embed the
profile front to back.
Posted by fathomsdeep (7 comments )
Link Flag
WTF?
<i>I'm not worried about Microsoft putting restrictions on consumer usage or requiring users to pay to see their own images

I and the rest of the world would have a huge f***ing problem with that.

If their new format is better (than JPEG) and free (like JPEG) then by all means i dont care about it... but if M$ will screw around with restricting manufacturers and users then i wont touch it with a 10 ft pole
Posted by volterwd (466 comments )
Link Flag
IMO, JohnUSA said it all.
If a new format is going to unseat jpeg, it cannot have the
licensing baggage that comes with everything from Microsoft.
Now that the Forgent copyright claim on the jpeg format has
been declared invalid, jpeg is an even better choice than it was
last month. Any new format has to be free.

Any new format has to be cross platform. What commercial
website would use images that couldn't be seen by 15% - 20% of
their potential customers? What company wants to make
professional cameras that won't be purchased by a large portion
of professional photographers because it won't work with their
favorite computer. Any new format has to be usable on Macs
and Linux.

And, you have to admit a lot of people believe that some truths
are universal: Water is wet, the sky is blue, and it's best if you
don't trust Microsoft. So anything they develope will start with
one strike against it.

My prediction is their new format may be incorporated into a
component of Windows and/or Office but will never become
something used by others to any great extent.

That is IF it ever materializes at all. Didn't MS announce a PDF
killer a while back. Did that vapor ever condense into a real
product?
Posted by rcrusoe (1305 comments )
Reply Link Flag
MS XPS format
Not to change the subject but MS hasn't release their XPS format yet. It will be in Office 12 and Windows Vista. I don't think it will kill pdf but it will definitely compete. Think about it; how much does Adobe Acrobat cost, $250. This will be free. Not only is it free, users don't have to install a reader because it will already be there. How many novice computer users abadoned a pdf document because it won't open and they aren't savy enough to go and install adobe's plugin. Using the XPS format will gurantee a company that all PCs can open it. I agree that MS has some obstacles to overcome when it introduces a new product but I wouldn't underestimate their strength either.

Mark
Posted by Striker77s (55 comments )
Link Flag
15% - 20%? Are you joking?
MS will, at the least, make the format usable for anything 2K+, so your talking about a whole lot more then 20%. The part that is neglagable is the 8% or so not covered by the above criteria.

And no, MS said nothing about a PDF killer, which only shows your ignorance. In Vista, they are using something called Metro, which overlaps some of the things PDF does, but is not intended to replace PDF. Just replaces some of the things currently in Windows that need replacing.
Posted by catch23 (436 comments )
Link Flag
Agreed.
JohnUSA phrased it bluntly and honestly -- the way it should be phrased.

But truth be told: do we need a new compressed/lossy imaging format for the Web? "Generally" speaking, no we don't. But from a web developers' point of view, we do need one thing addressed in JPEG -- lack-of transparency / alpha.

JPEG 2000 addresses this.

So really, what Microsoft needs to do is stop re-inventing the wheel (wasted time/effort, someone there at Microsoft created this file format to induce job security, if you ask me) and instead start *playing nicely* with industry standards that are open, public, documented, and well-defined.

It'll be a cold day in hell when Microsoft does that, but I'm speaking ideally.
Posted by katamari (310 comments )
Link Flag
Billy's pdf killer
"That is IF it ever materializes at all. Didn't MS announce a PDF killer a while back. Did that vapor ever condense into a real product?"

It's the new office document format they're trying to compete against opendocument with.
Posted by jabbotts (492 comments )
Link Flag
As Reported here earlier, MS has also made an image editor...
Microsoft's history is that they often start modestly - then lock you
in as you become comfortable with their file formats and have all
your documents in that format. Then they have you in too deep to
change.
Posted by technewsjunkie (1265 comments )
Reply Link Flag
For example?
Please provide an example where Microsoft has done this with other file formats.
Posted by googoogoojoob (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This was a reply to technewsjunkie
Sorry my post didn't show up in the right place...
Posted by googoogoojoob (3 comments )
Link Flag
Office 2007 document format
Someone sent me an .xml file from Office. I tried everything including opening my favourite html/xml editor (notepad) to make it readable in OfficeXP or my internet browser.

The format was not readable until I downloaded the MS proprietery Office2007 document viewer.

Previously, office suites other than microsoft office have been limited to supporting the previous MS Office generation's .doc format but the latest and greatest is always saved for MS-Off only.
Posted by jabbotts (492 comments )
Link Flag
Thank you CNET! :)
Thank you CNET for highlighting my post ("It ain't broke")

Just to add a few more comments... I am not a Microsoft hater nor a Microsoft lover. I am somewhere in between. But I gotta tell you, Microsoft needs to stop trying to "improve" things that either someone already does really well (iPod/iTunes) or something that doesn't need any improvements, just to try to "call it their own".

Hey Microsoft why don't you suprise us and come up with something truly revolutionary for a change?
Posted by HalfEmptyGlass (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Wha?
You don't want a company trying to improve itunes (which NEEDS improving) or any other established software?

I guess we should all be computing on an Eniac or an abacus or something?
Posted by KsprayDad (375 comments )
Link Flag
Online Music
If Microsoft wants to be a significant player in the online music market, don't they need to offer an alternative to the iTune, which is a closed and proprietary Apple thing?
Posted by dysonl (151 comments )
Link Flag
This is what I'm gonna do now...
I will wait until my sweet (but heavy) 5MP Canon digital camera is antiquated (in 12-18 months). Then I will look for the top rated 3 digital cameras. I will buy the best camera of the three that supports SOME FORMAT which is comparable in quality to MS Photo.

If the bastards are still stuck with crappy JPEG (slightly defeating the purpose of me buying a higher MP/quality camera) then I will simply take images in RAW mode.

I will NOT lose precious data with JPEG once a superb alternative is supported in Vista, XP, IE7, and Photoshop. I will simply batch convert the images to that format (in two or three sizes) and delete the RAWs. After all, I'm not a pro photographer.

Will this keep me in MS-land forever? Nah... I'll still in the future be able to convert back to the lossless leader of that day, in case I get sick of MS's prices. My then-500 Terabyte harddrive ("DVD"?) will take those measly 20,000 home-made images and leave space for a few millions more... I probably won't be able to recompress them decently - but I don't think I'll care much (CPU/storage/bandwidth-wise)...
Posted by Fictia (32 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Best feature - increased dynamic range
I don't care who it comes from, the Windows Media Photo solves so many issues - mostly the exceedingly limited 8 bits per color that we've had to live with for jpg. I am very much looking forward to broad use of this format.
Posted by DavidWorkman (14 comments )
Reply Link Flag
CNET misses the story (again)...
...in its never ending zeal to get in its digs at Microsoft.

Right now there's a company preparing to sue everyone out there who's using jpeg--a company which claims to have had the majority of its jpeg patents upheld recently by a US Patents Office review. Microsoft is trying to get around these patents with its newer compression formats, formats which not coincidentally compress better but display as well as jpeg.

As long as sites like CNet are themselves ignorant as to how much commercial money goes into "open source" of all kinds, and how "open source" software has to pay the same licensing fees for patented software as the makers of commercial software have to pay, and how the creators of "open source" often make lots of money themselves--well, CNet readers for the most part will remain ignorant themselves.

The remedy for that is to read widely outside of CNet...;) It's difficult to understand how CNet could have missed the root of the jpeg story. I'd say that when it comes to Microsoft you guys have a prejudicial blind spot as wide as the Atlantic ocean.
Posted by Walt Connery (89 comments )
Reply Link Flag
SPOT ON
wow, you really hit the mark there Walt... I mean the 'real story' here is how much commercial money is being pumped into open source and the fact that someone is filing patent lawsuits dealing with JPEG. I mean why focus on the technology and what people are saying about the technology when they could be talking about ANYTHING but the topic. maybe you should stick to your 'outside of CNet' sites so you can get the important information that has absolutely no bearing on the actual business world. Then you can get all of the fact just the way you like them, narrow minded and slanted to fit your view.
Posted by jeffhesser (102 comments )
Link Flag
Thanks Walt
Does CNet still have reporters? Seems like all they do now is glue together user opinions and present it as a factual news story. Maybe they're trying to make a periodical version of Wikipedia.

I guess I'll read it for the headlines and then Google it for the real story.
Posted by attilad (9 comments )
Link Flag
Sort of...
Walt,

I agree with most of your points, however, if you read recently the company that holds the JPEG patents actually just had almost 50% or more of them thrown out by the Patent board...
Posted by grossph (172 comments )
Link Flag
The problem is that it puts MS in the same position
If Microsoft throws the standard and the underlying software
techniques for encoding and decoding the compression into the
public domain (permanently), then it is a welcome standard. MS
can still make their $$ selling prepackaged solutions to both
coders (supporting it so they don't have to write the codec
solutions from scratch), and from server support/browser
support, back-end databases optimized to store large quantities
of the images, etc...
BUT if they don't put the image standard and the methodology
for encoding it (or have the ability to retract the public domain
license on any aspect of the concept), then they will be in exactly
the same position the existing JPEG image compression standard
is (ability to require royalties).
That royalty position is an untennable position for a standards
organization (WW3) to embrace as the "Defacto" graphics
standard, especially when they got burned once already with the
JPG issue. The standards which the primary core of the
information on the net is based upon needs to be in public
domain to maximize the value of the information it stores. What
would happen if IBM corp or Hollerith's decendents could sue for
royalty on every system which utilizes ASCII text? Think about it.
The same concept applies here...

Cheers,
The Guys at CyberPoet.NET
Posted by cyberpoet (18 comments )
Link Flag
A new format is needed --- but...
The new format cannot and must not include anything that requires licensing and/or royalties of any sort. With either licensing or royalties included it cannot become a standard because a standard is something that anyone should be able to freely use.

That said a new format is needed, while there are a lot of current formats (jpeg, tiff, gif, png...) none of those formats has a superset of the features included in the other formats.

PNG is probably the best all around current format but it lacks the "multiple images" in one file capability which TIFF provides. TIFF is a fairly good format but doesn't offer compression. GIF is obsolete mainly due to a now expired patent and the demands made for royalties by the Unisys corporation. JPEG is the workhorse format for images currently but it's shortcomings are also well known and of course there's another pack of greedy fools extorting money from people because they think they've got a patent on some of the technology used in those images.

It looks like MS has covered the bases on what's technically needed for a new image format, the question is whether they'll leave it free enough that it can be adopted as a standard even by MS's competitors.
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Forgot to mention...
Who wrote the selection of possible replies for this poll in the first place?

Talk about a lousy selection of answer options!
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I think...
That a new format that offers better quality images, alpha level transparency support and half the file size of the same quality JPEG would be great and it is needed. However, I will not touch it if it is a Microsoft product that isn't open and free for everyone to use. If they want to design it and release it as open source and royalty free than great. Otherwise I will stick with what we have.

Microsoft needs to learn that their way of doing business has created major trust issues. As in most people don't trust them.

Robert
Posted by Heebee Jeebies (632 comments )
Reply Link Flag
m$ should develop it, opensource should own it
If microsoft's file format is that much better than .jpg, it should absalutely be developed as a standard.

But, since this is a media format rather than an application developed to manipulate it, it should be released as an open standard. They can take credit for the creation but keeping it propriatery us just wrong.
Posted by jabbotts (492 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Not really
Office 2007 uses a brand new format, so it's not surprising that there aren't a lot of tools that can read the files. The key thing is whether other companies will be allowed and able to build tools that work with the new format. Since these files are XML based it's far easier than it used to be with the binary files.

There also aren't a lot of tools that support OpenDocument for the same reason - it's a new format.
Posted by googoogoojoob (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Put your photo's...
in the hands of Microsoft and don't come crying when they won't give them back.

It's been said before and it will be said again, nobody can trust Microsoft. They aren't in business for the good of any customer only the bottom line. The more the consumer gives into that the more power they have over how you choose to use your computer. I'm being blunt here, but I think that anybody who can't see or understand that is just fooling themselves.

Mirosoft is one of the most competitive and agressive companies in any market. Bill is out to win be damned sportsmanship or fairness. It's not apart of his agenda.

It's not about open source or Linux, it's about the right to choose how you use your technology. What good is it to have an image format that you are restricted on it's uses or platforms it can be used on. I'm not opposed to a new format to rival JPEG and I'm not opposed to it being developed by Microsoft. I am opposed to it being controlled or owned by Microsoft. If Microsoft would like my support they need to give it up to a standards body and make it completly unincumbered by any patents or copyrights. Otherwise it's just another Microsoft proprietary piece of software that, better or worse, locks you into doing what Microsoft want's you to do.
Posted by System Tyrant (1453 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Release as open source
Microsoft has made an improvement in a current system, and they deserve praise. It's a great idea, and they should take credit for it. But the PR, I think, is much more valuable than owning propriety on this format. Take credit for making a great product Microsoft, release it as open source, and be seen that you made a product that help this industry, instead of shady maneuvers that hurt it.
Posted by Sil3nt71 (51 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This just wont work
JPEG works fine for amateur photography - this format is target at the professionals who deal with increably large and detailed files. The trouble is that the vast majority of such professionals make extencive use of Mac's, and I really can't see Windows Media Photo featuring in Mac OSX.
Posted by joevallely (9 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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