On2 Throws More Open-Source at MPEG-4

Compression technology company On2 Technologies , fighting
for more acceptance of its VP3 open source codec, has joined forces with
open source foundation Xiph.Org Foundation
to build a royalty-free streaming media platform.

The decision to combine its source code with Xiph’s Ogg Vorbis, which offers a
royalty-free audio compression platform similar to MP3, is yet another shot
across the bow of the competing multimedia streaming standard MPEG-4.

With major patent holders of MPEG-4 close to announcing new licensing fees
for media players that deploy the proprietary MPEG-4 formats (which compete
with On2’s codec), On2 is joining forces with a larger open source movement
to counter the move.

“This is the first full multimedia platform available to the open source
community,” said Douglas A. McIntyre, president and CEO of the New
York-based On2 Technologies.

In order to offer one-stop shopping for a soup-to-nuts streaming platform,
On2 has added its VP3.2 open source video compression with Ogg Vorbis’s
audio encoding and streaming platform. The New York-based On2 is also
throwing in its TrueCast5 video player and VPVision personal video recorder

The idea is to get the developer community to adopt the streaming platform
as an alternative to MPEG-4, whose patent-holders in the group have mulled a
license fee of 25 cents per each product that deploys the standard, such as
encoders and decoders, with a cap of $1 million on fees each year.

Instead, On2 is pitching a streaming platform “free of the licensing fees
that have plagued the MPEG-4 initiative,” said McIntyre.

But the collaboration has more to do with “killing off license fees,” added
Xiph.org Foundation CEO Emmett Plant.

“It’s also about giving people the ability to download, modify and
distribute the VP3 source code with wild abandon. We’re extremely happy to
be working with On2 on this project. We’re not just developing a great
multimedia platform, we’re doing it in a way that will satisfy and empower
the open source community.”

On2 open-sourced VP3 in September, 2001 and since then over 20,000 companies
and software developers have downloaded the license and source code. In the
same amount of time, Ogg Vorbis has been downloaded over 250,000 times.

Intel has already given On2’s VP3 codec its blessing, saying in December
that it has the potential to become “the MP3 of video.”

Now, added McIntyre, it’s all on one site — PVR, video, audio, “and it’s all interoperable, so you don’t have to wander around and try to assemble it all yourself.”

On2’s VP3.2 video compression codec is among most efficient available to the
open-source community. Higher versions of the technology (which have not
been open-sourced) are in use by Apple and RealNetworks media players.

Vorbis is part of a group of “Ogg” multimedia coding formats offered by the
Xiph.Org Foundation, a non-profit devoted to creating and maintaining open
standards in multimedia.

On2’s latest move comes about three months after it asked the
Department of Justice to look into whether MPEG-4 patent holders are forging
monopoly practices in multi-media technology.

In a letter addressed to Charles James, assistant attorney general of the
U.S. Department of Justice, video compression company On2’s McIntyre railed
against the MPEG LA, asking that the consortium’s license be terminated on
the grounds that it has crafted a monopoly in the digital video broadcast
market. The DOJ is said to be reviewing the letter.

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