Standards and Network Effects

Blu-ray group gets behind Microsoft tech

The Blu-ray Disc Association is making three video compression-decompression technologies mandatory in its read-only disc specification, and one of those codecs is Microsoft’s VC-1, a Panasonic representative said Tuesday. Panasonic’s parent, Matsushita Electric, is one of the 13 companies behind the Blu-ray format, which is vying with the rival HD DVD format to replace today’s DVDs for the coming era of high-definition programming.

VC-1 is the name given to Microsoft’s VC-9 codec by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), which is considering the technology as a possible standard. As VC-9, VC-1 has already won approval as a mandatory codec for the HD DVD format.

The decision by the Blu-ray group means that makers of Blu-ray disc players will have to incorporate VC-1, as well as another advanced codec known as MPEG-4 AVC High Profile and the older codec MPEG-2, said Richard Doherty, a director of Panasonic’s Hollywood laboratory. Advanced codecs are designed to squeeze a larger amount of content into a given space.

The move will lead to licensing fees given to companies, like Microsoft, that own intellectual property used by these codecs. The decision also appears to show that Microsoft was wise to buck its usual strategy and turn its VC-9 technology over to an open-standards body such as SMPTE. Doherty said it was “important” to the Blu-ray backers that Microsoft’s codec became an open-standards technology.