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Microsoft Windows Media 9 Wins DVD Forum approval

Microsoft’s Windows Media 9 (referenced “VC-9”) compression technology in a next-generation high-definition DVD format.

The DVD Forum, after meeting in Tokyo, announced provisional approval for Microsoft’s VC-9 and two other video technologies—H.264 and MPEG-2—as mandatory for the HD-DVD video specification for playback devices. The approval is subject to several conditions, including an update in 60 days of licensing terms and conditions. Also approved was a near-final version of the HD-DVD specifications for rewritable discs.

Last September, Microsoft submitted its Windows Media Series 9 as a standards candidate to SMPTE.

In doing so, Microsoft set out to provide a viable successor to MPEG-2, a compression standard that is the foundation of satellite, cable, video-editing systems and current DVDs. If approved, Microsoft hopes its technology will become de facto for a range of set-top boxes, professional video-editing equipment, satellite transmissions and consumer electronics.

HD-DVD is a blue-laser technology that compresses much more information onto optical discs than do typical DVDs today, which use red-lasers. The format for HD-DVD specifies a 20GB rewritable disc and a read-only disc with 15GB on a single layer and 30GB on dual layers. DVDs read by red-laser drives can hold 4.7GB on a single layer and 8.5GB on dual layers.

The DVD Forum’s steering committee had previously approved a near-final version of the HD-DVD specifications for read-only discs. NEC and Toshiba back the HD-DVD format. Despite its support by the DVD Forum, HD-DVD has serious competition from the competing Blu-ray technology. Blu-ray is supported by a group that includes Sony, Hewlett-Packard and Dell. In addition, China is developing a third next-generation DVD technology.

If Microsoft were to succeed in establishing Windows Media as a codec for HDTV, the licensing fees could be enormous—with royalty ranging from 10 cents to 15 cents per decoder and encoder.

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