Commentary: H.264 Video—The Format of Convergence

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As an open, published specification, anyone can implement H.264/AVC. Licensing terms for a portfolio of essential implementation patents were announced in late 2005 by MPEG LA, and as of August 2007, nearly 350 companies had signed the license.

H.264 itself has been incorporated into many other industry standards, including both Blu-ray and HD-DVD disk standards; DVB’s digital broadcast television standard; mobile multimedia standards from 3GPP, DVB, and DMB; and even defense video applications by NATO.

Incorporated Into Many Products
The strongest evidence that H.264 will be the format of convergence is that in addition to standards body adoption and support by the internet video gorillas, H.264 is also already built into hundreds of professional and consumer products and services. Several categories of products supporting H.264 are worthy of special mention.

Silicon. For consumer electronics products, silicon support is critical for a digital video format: Unlike a PC, where there are CPU cycles to burn on complex transformations, consumer electronics products can only decode digital video with dedicated silicon. And so consumer electronics support is predicated on embedded H.264 decoders in a variety of chipset products. As it turns out, virtually all companies that offer digital video decoder silicon have been shipping H.264 products for several years now, including Ambarella, ATI, Broadcom, Conexant, Intel, nVidia, Sigma, ST Micro, TI, Thomson, and many others.

Professional Encoders. Commercial video producers naturally require the highest production quality when delivering in H.264. Professional H.264video encoders are available from scores of companies including Adobe , Apple, Ateme, Envivio, Grass Valley, Harmonic, Harris, MainConcept, Motorola, Optibase, Panasonic, Scientific Atlanta, Sony, Tandberg and Thomson.

Other Products and Services. The list below highlights other significant products and services that incorporate H.264 support.

Consumer internet—Apple iTunes, Google/YouTube, Joost
HDTV—DirectTV, Dish Network, and Sky HD for HDTV
Mobile—DVB-H services throughout Europe; NTT Docomo FOMA and KDDI EZCHannel in Japan; DMB services in Korea from SK Telecome and KT; Qualcomm's MediaFlo broadcast services adopted by Verizon and AT&T in the U.S.
DVD players—Both Blu-ray and HD DVD include H.264
Game consoles—Xbox 360, Sony PS3, Sony PSP
Camcorders—AVCHD camcorders from Sony, Panasonic, Canon
Multimedia mobile phones—Apple iPhone, Nokia, Motorola, Sony-Ericsson, LG, Samsung
Portable media players—Apple video iPods, Archos, iRiver, Sony

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