posted by Thom Holwerda on Fri 9th Apr 2010 22:42 UTC
IconThis, people, is a big one. Remember all the articles we had on Theora, H264, and which codec is better suited for HTML5 video? Well, it seems that Google has officially decided to put some serious weight behind... Theora. What they're doing is a baby step, but one specific aspect of that baby step is very important: Google is openly stating that Theora is free of patents.

Google has decided to puts its weight behind Theorarm, an Ogg Theora/Vorbis decoding library specifically optimised towards the ARM platform. Google will fund Theorarm's development in what is clearly an effort by the search and web giant to take away people's fears about mobile devices not being able to handle Theora.

In the blog post announcing the financial support, Google sings praise for Theora. "The complexity of Theora is considerably less than that of many of its peers; other codecs often require dedicated hardware in devices to help achieve performance targets, but with careful coding Theora can be made to run without this," Google writes.

After praising Theora's quality and compression levels, Google states in no uncertain terms that Theora is patent free. "The overwhelming feature that makes it stand out from its rivals is the fact it's free," the company writes, "Really free. Not just 'free to use in decoders', or 'free to use if you agree to this complicated license agreement', but really, honestly, genuinely, 100% free. The specification for the stream and encoder/decoder source is available for public download and can be freely used/modified by anyone. Theora was designed and is maintained with the overriding goal of avoiding patents. No other codec can come even close to claiming to be as patent or royalty free as Theora can, whilst still holding a candle to the alternatives."

This means that Google, a major company with a legal department the size of Texas, believes that Theora is not a patent threat. I, personally, have long argued that Google's inclusion of Theora in Chrome meant the company believes Theora is not under threat, but this pretty much seals the deal: Google openly and officially stating what most of us already knew.

This means that Google has positioned itself directly against Apple. Not only is Google trying to solve the problem of Theora on mobile devices, the company is also giving a major vote of confidence regarding the patent issue. If Theorarm manages to deliver, H264 supporters (like Apple) will no longer be able to claim that mobile devices aren't ready for Theora.

This is interesting.

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