Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Cisco releases H.264 royalty free. Does it matter?

My personal thoughts on A.E. Natarajan, EVP of Engineering at Polycom's post  and the Cisco announcement about making H.264 available royalty free (or rather paying the MPEG licensing costs): 


Thanks! 

I've seen Polycom releasing codecs codecs royalty free for long time: 
  • 1999 – audio codec Siren 7 to the ITU  (became G.722.1) 
  • 2005 – audio codec Siren 14  to the ITU (became G.722.1C)
  • 2008 – audio codec Siren 22 to the ITU  (became G.719)
  • 2012— video codec H.264SVC royalty free (through UCIF)
It's nice for Cisco to start doing the same-- for acting like they want to make voice and video interoperable and not just saying they support it. 

Interoperability is good.  Imagine if a Verizon cell phone couldn't call a cell phone on AT&T, or an iPhone couldn't call a Android.  That's bad for the users.  

The video space is still rapidly expanding.  New products are being taken to market by startups.   Free helps drive innovation. 


IMHO, whether WebRTC uses H.264 or VP8; H.265 or VP9 as the underlying codecs probably in the long term won't matter much for the users. However, given that we still have video devices that are almost old enough to drive in the real world, that "long term" can be a long time away.  

Video thought leaders like Polycom will need to ensure we build solutions that continue to make video as easy to use as clicking a hyperlink, dialing a phone, or saying "Siri, call my boss video."  Full integration with calendaring and social, mobile and cloud are a must -- and transcoding when necessary without user intervention. 

What ever the magic in the codecs, it's still the user experience that matters: 
 -- Simple. Secure. Supportable. Scalable. 

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