Saturday Shout: Windows Media Photo Format - Good, Bad or Indifferent?

May 27, 2006 | Mark Goldstein | Saturday Shout | 14 Comments |

Saturday ShoutOn Thursday news emerged about a new image file format from Microsoft, specifically for photos, called the Windows Media Photo format. Said to offer better quality at half the size when compared to the JPEG format, WMPs will be part of Windows Vista and may also be released as an add-on for WIndows XP. But does the world really need another image format - isn’t JPEG good enough already? After all, JPEG 2000 has struggled to gain widespread support, despite its technical superiority to bog-standard JPEG. And will anyone except for Microsoft actually bother to support the WMP format? Shout out now…



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#1 Nicholas

The important issue as I see it is SPEED.

Is this new WMPs format able to be achieved with faster computational speed than JPEGs? This is the question regarding the viability of WMPs in future cameras, IMHO.

If the quailty is reported to be about even wth JPEGs, how fast will it write to our cards in camera?

Space is no longer an issue; the consumer market has reached ( almost ) the max of image size a typical user with a typical computer could or would want to handle.

If the WMPs would speed up shot to shot time, it would have a significant value.

Regards, Nicholas

12:57 pm - Saturday, May 27, 2006

#2 Fabrice Roux

"Said to offer better quality at half the size when compared to the JPEG format,..."

Apples to apples. This is really shocking... you know what my current car is at least twice faster and eats at least twice less gass than the Ford T. *rolls eyes*

This is the least to espect from a year 2006 image format... now does it have the gut to become a standard... NO WAY!!!

5:30 pm - Saturday, May 27, 2006

#3 Bruce McL

I hope the camera manufacturers aren't stupid enough to go along with this. They've got to be able to see where this leads.

First Microsoft monopolizes camera file formats, then a "Microsoft Imaging" sticker on the camera and Microsoft investing in a company that makes camera firmware. At some point they monopolize the firmware industry and start dictating hardware requirements to camera manufacturers the way they do to PC manufacturers.

5:52 pm - Saturday, May 27, 2006

#4 Phil

Once again Microsoft have missed being the force behind the Industry Standard and trying to ram some half baked idea down our throats will probably work.

If we are lucky enough that it will be part of Vista, then lets face it it will never reach the market place.

As for the rest .. just vote with your feet .. I use raw and jpeg, which keeps me happy for the detail and everyone else happy that they can see the picture.

Let Microsoft try to reinvent the wheel if it keeps them happy. I also hope it is better than jpeg and fails to be adopted then maybe they will understand all the effort that other people have put into R&D to have it coppied by a certain famous giant.

6:37 pm - Saturday, May 27, 2006

#5 AA

Everyone's got to have their own file format.

Because they can, they'll just do it anyways.

All we can do is take it all and tinker with them and make the best out of all of them in various ways.

All we can do it hope that it works OK without too many problems.

5:54 am - Sunday, May 28, 2006

#6 Daemon

I seriously doubt it will catch on. And given microsoft's track record with file formats, I really hope it doesn't. Incompatability issues, personal information being stored without user knowledge, virus susceptability, etc.

7:10 am - Sunday, May 28, 2006

#7 Thomas

It is a bad idea. JPEG will always be readable because it is a standard. What is the chance that you can read your files in the year 2015 if they are written in a proprietary format? Microsoft will have moved on to the next format by that time.

Speed and compression ratio become less and less issues. A memory card is cheaper than film used to be and it can be reused - so why bother? And in 3 more years the interest in this is about as high as good compression for say text - i.e. none at all as the files are so small they can move around effortlessly even uncompressed.

12:00 pm - Sunday, May 28, 2006

#8 TC

It might not be that bad. The WMV video foramt is extremely popular, for good reason, and has helped improve other formats by (ironically) injecting a powerful competitive force into the market.

JPEG is getting a bit archaic. What we need is a new JPEG format that retains compatibility with old files, but adds better quality/compression/speed and most importantly- the ability to uncompress/recompress without losing quality each time! Why am I the only one to mention this?

3:36 pm - Sunday, May 28, 2006

#9 Sulis

Bad, bad, bad. There is little obvious demand for a new format, from either pros or consumers. Storage costs are falling all the time, while processing speed is increasing – can't see the benefit.

6:20 pm - Sunday, May 28, 2006

#10 Jason

I agree with TC. Some of this is probably anti-Microsoft sentiment instead of actually looking at the benefits of a new file format. And if MS makes it so only their software will open the files, or sneaks rights to the pics, then no - I want no part of it.

If this were a small startup we may hear a different tone. JPEG is long in the tooth and with demands on storage space, there's a lot to be said for improving the quality of images. As long as people need to view JPEGs, there will be tools to view them. We still can read archaic formats such as Targa in most readers.

So many people here whine when a camera company doesn't double the megapixels with each model, but we need to stay with an old format for years and years? You can't have it both ways with your technology feast.

9:59 pm - Sunday, May 28, 2006

#11 David Grandy

Microsoft as usual wants to be the centre of the universe, but if their past record in digital photography related advetures is any indication (remember the Photoshop killer program from last year?) this will be dead on arrival as well.

Although this is a trivial point I'd like to know which Microsoft Nobel Prize winner decided to use .wmp, as the file type. Can this be spoken or written as anything BUT WIMP? Perhaps he or she was the grandchild of the British Royal Navy official who thought that a great name for a WWII Flower Class corvette was HMS Pansy.

In any case I don't see using WIMP files until they are universal and that EVERY part of photography uses them. That means camera, computer, software and printing. What point is there to make WIMPS only to find that 2 out of 3 labs can make prints from this format, while ALL of them can make prints from jpg files? What about all of the Photoshop programs that are fully functional (PS7 for example) but aren't upgraded by Adobe and won't be able to read WIMP? Do I want to take a chance that a lab or an agency can't read a WIMP file? Even today, I use a lab whose machines can't read the DVD format, and I don't think that it's that rare; so a Lab upgrade to WIMP is not going to be automatic.

In any case I'll wait. And me - times a couple of million - will also wait; and that means that WIMP will probably go the way of jpeg2000.

12:56 pm - Monday, May 29, 2006

#12 Jack'O'BothSides

Blimey. You read so much about how people feel RAW is a rough deal as each vendor is using their own - then along comes Mr.Gates doing what he does best and still nobody is happy.

Sure it might not be right, but he doesn't have the play he has today for nothing. MS gives people what they want - as a whole. WMA and WMV do what they say on the tin, so much so that companies you would never dream of following the gates line have had to submit, a la Sony.

What's the problem, you get a better format, and within 2 years the vast majority of computer systems will read it out of the box, along with ~95% of web browsers users.... then Mac et al follow suit and everyone's a winner.

If, and when, someone comes up with something better, which has the ability of such widespread support, then we will listen. Hell freezing over?

8:28 pm - Monday, May 29, 2006

#13 frank

What ever happened to JPEG 2000? Wasn't that supposed to be the lossless compression algorithm that was supposed to be the next standard? Or was that tangled up in copyrights and usage agreements like GIF. I do not think anyone will jump from JPEG unless two things occur: One is lossless compression with similar file sizes, and the other is the "no strings attached" usage. I doubt that Billy Boy will do either.

12:38 pm - Tuesday, May 30, 2006

#14 Phil

Reading the spec for this format, it is pretty obvious that the primary requirement in its development was for an image format that can be processed with simple, cheap, low power hardware. This is a format designed specifically to be easily digestible by embedded systems. That is what sets it apart from previous formats, especially JPEG2000. Whether or not storage and processor power can be considered 'not a problem', a more efficient format still means more images on your card, faster response of your camera, longer battery life etc. This gets even more significant when the device in question is a mobile phone or PDA.

1:33 pm - Wednesday, June 7, 2006