Google's Open Source VP9 Codec to Be Supported Almost All Hardware Makers

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Finally, we’re going to see an open source video codec take over the web and video streaming. Google has just announced a huge list of important hardware partners that will be adopting the open source VP9 video codec in 2014 and 2015, which includes: ARM, Broadcom, Intel, LG, Marvell, MediaTek, Nvidia, Panasonic, Philips, Qualcomm, RealTek, Samsung, Sigma, Sharp, Sony and Toshiba.

As you can see, that list includes not just the main chip makers in the industry such as ARM, Qualcomm, Nvidia, Mediatek, Broadcom, Marvell, and Intel, but also device and TV makers such as Samsung, Sony, LG, Toshiba, Sharp and so on, some of which are also part of the MPEG-LA consortium.

I expected VP9 to take off much better than VP8 did, because unlike the time when the VP8 launched, years after h.264, it was already too far behind, not just in terms of momentum and timing in the market, but also technically (although at this point they are about equal). This time, however, the situation is much different, because we’re on the verge of moving to a “next-gen” codec, which puts h.265 and VP9 on a much more equal footing in terms of timing in the market and momentum.

However, it seems VP9 just got a huge momentum boost with this alliance of VP9 supporters, which even I didn’t expect. I’m glad Google became very committed to VP9 and pushing it forward, because with VP8 they didn’t seem as committed. They promised to make it the default codec for Chrome v10 a few years ago, but then backtracked, and kept h.264.

This left Mozilla in a poor position in the browser market, because they remained the only company that didn’t support h.264, at least until recently, when they announced that they will be using Cisco’s “open source” (except you can’t modify it) h.264 decoder. However, they won’t get the same luck with h.265, which is much newer, which is why Mozilla started working on its own Daala codec, that should arrive in 2015-2016, and presumably be significantly better than the current “next-gen” codecs like VP9 and h.265.

But the good news is that now neither Google nor Mozilla will have to worry about supporting a proprietary and patent encumbered video codec in the near future, as VP9 is not poised to dominate the market, with so many hardware makers supporting it.

VP9 can play the same quality as h.264 at half the bandwidth requirements, or it can have twice as good quality at the same bandwidth requirements. This should make HD videos load twice as fast, and it should also make “4k videos” a lot more efficient. We should begin to see it supported in devices starting with this year, and it should be in all new chips and hardware in 2015.