Written on Tuesday, July 31, 2007 by Gemini
Microsoft's ongoing attempt to establish its own photo format as a JPEG alternative (and potential successor) took another step forward today when the JPEG standards group agreed to consider HD Photo (originally named Windows Media Photo) as a standard. If successful, the new file standard will be known as JPEG XR.
Microsoft has sunk a great deal of work into HD Photo/JPEG XR and is aiming it specifically towards digital photography and other image capturing devices. JPEG XR features include fixed or floating point high dynamic range, wide gamut image encoding, better compression compared to JPEG, lossless compression, the ability to store 16 or 32 bits of data per color, and support for CMYK, RGB, monochrome, and embedded ICC color profiles.
HD Photo is also capable of storing data in such a way that only the needed information for any particular region needs to be decoded, and the compressed data itself can be manipulated. Microsoft cites this feature as important for supporting the next generation of products like Windows Live Earth. The new format may also improve the quality of photos taken under low-light conditions, due to its ability to store color data as interpreted by the camera sensor more flexibly than other formats may allow.
In contrast to the ongoing fight between competing file standards ODF and OOXML, the market seems moderately more friendly to the idea of a Microsoft-created standard that might replace, or at least complement, the existing JPEG standard. Although JPEG2000 is capable of many of the same capabilities as HD Photo, the latter requires significantly less computational power and decompresses significantly faster. Adobe's TIFF format obviously isn't going anywhere anytime soon, but JPEG XR has the potential to establish Microsoft as a parity player in the image format game.
Now that the JPEG committee has begun the standardization process, balloting will begin and last through October of this year. Assuming balloting is successful, it should take approximately one year to finalize and publish the completed standard, and Microsoft expects to work closely with the commission throughout this process. Redmond has also stated it will offer a royalty-free grant for its patents that are required to implement the new standard.