Jobs, who has issued a fatwa on Adobe’s codec, may have been a little surprised that Google defied his will and issued a body blow to his cunning plan.
The feeling is that by releasing WebM for free Google has put a third player in the codec market. Adobe, which is the most popular, WebM which is free, and H.264 which is arguably better, blessed by Jobs but will cost.
According to Apple Insider, when it asked Jobs what he thought of the move by Google, he simply forwarded back the critical expose profiled yesterday by Apple Insider.
The report, penned by x264 developer Jason Garrett-Glaser, castigated the new specification for video compression as being weak, incomplete, and undoubtedly encumbered by patent pitfalls.
Based on his blessing of the report, it is fairly clear what Jobs’ thinking is on the Google codec.
He probably also thinks it is not as sophisticated as the latest MPEG-4 specification in terms of compression quality or efficiency, nor does it offer a comparable technical range of use.
Apple can’t use it as a mobile-optimised codec for its iPods, iPads and iPhones, nor is it suitable for high definition video encoding yet.
This is because VP8 is a web codec where where Google, Mozilla and other partners hope to use it to deliver video without the royalties required by H.264.
Jobs is unlikely to have a problem writing a royalty cheque to license MPEG’s H.264 because the royalties are not very expensive. H.264 licensing fees are really only a relevant cost problem for groups like Mozilla wanting to give away free software. Apple fanboys have indicated they are prepared to pay anything that Steve asks them.
Jobs feels that codec patent holders that will come after VP8 looking for royalties and anyone who uses the “royalty-free” codec will end up having to pay royalties anyway.
Without the problem of patents resolved, VP8 only offers less sophistication and a more incomplete and immature specification.
We are not that convinced that it will go this way. It assumes that WebM will be taking on just Jobs and H.264, when the reality is that both Jobs and Google will be taking on Adobe. Adobe has been pulling its socks up and has a huge established market. Jobs only has control of the iPhone and iPad which is small in comparison to mainstream web use. What Google has just done is split the forces that were rallied against Adobe. This would be ok, but Jobs does not do coalitions.