Google hopes to sidestep the entire HTML5 video debate with a new, open source, royalty free format called WebM. But will Apple ever support it? Judging by to the latest missive from Steve’s iPad, things don’t look great.
A Register reader sent a concise email to Jobs’ public email address, to which he often uses to respond to questions and inject his opinion into tech issues, semi-indirectly:
What did you make of the recent VP8 announcement?
Good question! Microsoft, Mozilla, Opera and Google (obv) are all willing to give this WebM thing a whirl. Whether or not Apple incorporates support into its products—particularly the HTML5-savvy iPhoneOS—could well determine the format's fate. Steve responded with nothing but a link. A link to the first widely read screed against WebM, penned by Jason Garrett-Glaser, who works on an open source h.264 encoder project. So, what does he think? Ho ho:
VP8 is simply way too similar to H.264: a pithy, if slightly inaccurate, description of VP8 would be "H.264 Baseline Profile with a better entropy coder". Though I am not a lawyer, I simply cannot believe that they will be able to get away with this, especially in today's overly litigious day and age. Even VC-1 differed more from H.264 than VP8 does, and even VC-1 didn't manage to escape the clutches of software patents. Until we get some hard evidence that VP8 is safe, I would be extremely cautious.
Garrett-Glaser also mentions poor performance relative to h.264, sloppy definition of the standard, and its seeming incompleteness, at one point observing, "AAAAAAAGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!" The analysis is exhaustive and extremely technical (I somehow doubt Jobs is versed in the intricacies of DC coefficients and quantization maps); at times it's hard to know if the writer is using impenetrable jargon to his advantage, if the writer's closeness to his subject tints his opinion. Either way, it's a worthwhile read.
Warrants of the piece aside, I suppose we can take this to mean that Steve's personal opinion is somewhere in the ballpark of "AAAAAAAGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH," and furthermore, that Steve's opinion either reflects company policy, or will soon be reflected by company policy. Apple's adoption would be a major get for WebM, but that looks like that's out of the question, at least in the short term. [Register]