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Microsoft yesterday announced its first release version to of a new proprietary specification to rival the widely used image format JPEG. According to Microsoft, its Windows Media Photo version 1.0 format surpasses what it terms the limitations of existing image formats. Convincing users to switch to its image format instead of JPEG is yet another demonstration of the way Microsoft has managed to keep its user base intact through platform lock-in.
The current version of Windows Media Photo available on the Microsoft website is an update to the 0.9 draft specification shipped with Windows Vista Beta 2 and the WinFX Runtime Components Beta 2.

In order to gain traction in the market place with the new image specification, Microsoft is expected to make the standard available for both Vista and Windows XP. One of the attractions of JPEG is that is available across a broad range of operating system environments. However, with a 90% market share of desktops, Microsoft is bound to win a large portion of desktop users over to its new digital imaging format as a means of further locking them in to its Windows platform. Having thousands of photos stored in a proprietary specification that cannot be easily converted to another format is a powerful inhibitor to users switching platforms.

Some analysts say Windows Media Photo is indeed an improvement on JPEG, offering the ability to store images in files about half the size of JPEG with superior quality. This, they say, will appeal to amateur digital photographers rather than professionals who use higher quality formats. It is the amateurs who constitute the majority of Windows users.

On the website, Microsoft lists the range of features and benefits supported by Windows Media Photo including: multiple color formats for display or print; fixed or floating point high dynamic range image encoding; lossless or high quality lossy compression; extremely efficient decoding for multiple resolutions and sub-regions; and minimal overhead for format conversion or transformations during decode. Linux and Mac users might have to wait for availability of this format encoders/decoders or applications in their platform.

Posted on Saturday, May 27, 2006 1:21 PM | Back to top

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