Hardware WebM video decoder design released

As low-power devices like netbooks and tablets become increasingly popular, the need for hardware-accelerated web video playback becomes more apparent. High-definition Flash can bog down more powerful systems than one might expect, and Adobe took its sweet time implementing hardware acceleration. The folks behind the open and relatively new WebM video format are being a little more aggressive. As Engadget notes, the WebM dev team is already offering graphics chip makers everything they need to implement a hardware decoder for the format’s VP8 video codec.

According to WebM, 20 partners have licensed the decoder tech. Chinese semiconductor firm Rocketchip even has a hardware implementation ready. And there’s more goodness to come. The WebM team is planning to release a hardware design for a VP8 encoder in the first quarter of this year.

WebM is backed by Google, whose Chrome browser is set to drop support for the competing H.264 video codec. According to Google’s Chromium Blog, H.264 is being cut out of Chrome to focus resources on "completely open" codecs. WebM qualifies, as does the Ogg Theora codec, which is currently supported. H.264 isn’t an open standard, although the MPEG LA firm that handles its licensing announced in August (PDF) that royalties will not be charged for H.264 content that is made available free to users.

Comments closed
    • Palek
    • 9 years ago

    Geoff, the Chinese chip company is called Rockchip, not Rocketchip.

    [url<]http://www.rock-chips.com/[/url<]

    • Da_Boss
    • 9 years ago

    I still don’t quite understand what Google hopes to achieve here. This seems to be a bad idea on so many levels:

    1. It totally goes against their ‘don’t be evil’ mantra to be seen as such hypocrites, only looking to further their own interests. For example, they take issue with h.264 support in Chrome, but not in Android? They don’t see an issue with the fact that they ship with a Flash plugin in Chrome, and support flash on Android, as well? Their actions don’t suggest the company cares anything for ‘open standards’, or even ‘standards’ for that matter. h.264 is a standard, and this move won’t change that.

    2. They’re trying to cash in on whatever capital or goodwill they perceive Chrome has by making this move. Unfortunately, It seems as if the only thing that’ll actually suffer from this is Chrome.

    Intel just shipped a CPU with fixed function hardware that explicitly supports h.264. Both AMD and nVidia ship GPUs with support for hardware decode for h.264. The codec also has hardware support in just about every ARM chip in a smartphone these days, regardless of vendor or OS.

    The whole industry is pushing towards h.264, even other departments of Google are. Why would you choose to try and use a browser with ~6% market share to curb that momentum. It seems half assed to me. YouTube would’ve been a statement. Android would’ve also been a statement. But Chrome? Using Chrome to try and influence the tech industry is a bad joke.

    3. Why doesn’t Google go to these lengths to remove other MPEG patented standards such as mp3 or AAC. Those codecs are currently supported in Chrome and Android. Why won’t Google take a broader stand on other ‘closed standards’? Again… Seems half-assed.

    This is such a disappointment to me. Back to Safari soon, I guess.

      • BlackStar
      • 9 years ago

      1. H.264 is a standard, but is not a *web* standard and will never become one given the W3C license requirements.

      2. No goodwill is lost, because neither developers nor users are relying on HTML5 video yet. Everyone is using flash which works with H.264 just fine – including hardware acceleration.

      This is about the future, not about now.

      3. They may do that. Firefox and Opera don’t support mp3 files.

      Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

        • blastdoor
        • 9 years ago

        “2. No goodwill is lost, because neither developers nor users are relying on HTML5 video yet. Everyone is using flash which works with H.264 just fine – including hardware acceleration.”

        Except for over a hundred million iOS users.

        Also — is flash a “web standard”?

          • BlackStar
          • 9 years ago

          So Chrome runs on iOS now?

          Please, give me some of that which you are smoking.

            • blastdoor
            • 9 years ago

            You didn’t say no chrome users were using h264, you said nobody was using h264. Read your own post.

            • willyolio
            • 9 years ago

            you should read it again. he said nobody was using h.264 [b<]except in Flash[/b<].

      • blastdoor
      • 9 years ago

      I totally agree… not sure what all the negative votes are about.

        • sweatshopking
        • 9 years ago

        THEY’RE NOT ABOUT ANYTHING. VOTING IS RETARDED. GET RID OF IT.

          • blastdoor
          • 9 years ago

          I’m in favor of voting because I have hope that it will lead to less food for trolls. But we’ll see…

            • sweatshopking
            • 9 years ago

            which trolls you talking about?

          • poulpy
          • 9 years ago

          Lol they did put the First Post thing in the grave, I understand your anger bro.

      • shank15217
      • 9 years ago

      Chrome kicks safari in the ballz, I don’t care about standards, I just care about content. Stop the nerd rage man.

    • sschaem
    • 9 years ago

    Doesn’t Chrome include Flash ?
    And Flash does have a full software and HW accelerated mpeg4 h.264 codec license.
    So this move will only affect HTML5 developers.

      • KoolAidMan
      • 9 years ago

      Exactly. It is a very shortsighted move in terms of making HTML5 video containers adopted faster. I know now that for desktops I will encode h.264 for Flash, and h.264 for mobile devices. HTML5 on a desktop, not a chance.

      Way to go Google, way to screw things up for HTML5 video container adoption. Just when things were going so well.

      • jstern
      • 9 years ago

      Obviously the main motivation for google is to promote their new codec, but about what you said, it’s apples and oranges. Flash is a plugging, it’s not part of HTML5 and the organization that runs it and wants to keep it open. Too tired, but I think you understand what I’m trying to say.

    • kamikaziechameleon
    • 9 years ago

    I think that google taking a stance against MPEG LA is a good thing. Open standards are the way to go. I don’t think that they will loose to much buisness because of it.

      • sweatshopking
      • 9 years ago

      I don’t think they will either, but the fact is, the world will use h.264. the players that make the decisions, own it. they want the royalties. you’re going to pay it.

        • designerfx
        • 9 years ago

        just because it’s the current dominant format doesn’t mean that’s a good thing, from a legal perspective, from a long term perspective, nor from google’s perspective. Windows is dominant but you don’t see people moving towards it, you see people running in the other direction as it loses marketshare.

        Proprietary standards are not good long term decisions.

        you want to live with that H264 threat over your head, that they can basically crush you at will?

          • sweatshopking
          • 9 years ago

          I never said I wanted it. I said it was here to stay. in this current level of video anyway. Who’s microsoft losing market share to? apple. who is a co-owner of h.264. good luck with that bro. google is the ONLY one who has any interest in not supporting it, complete list of licensor’s here:

          [url<]http://www.mpegla.com/main/programs/AVC/Pages/Licensors.aspx[/url<] Open standards lost THIS round. Next one might go better.

            • designerfx
            • 9 years ago

            there is no round, nor a war.

            meanwhile, there are still replacements for H264. So while H264 may be the most commonly used for the time being, open standards can still replace it down the road.

            at the end of the day when the decision becomes pay money or free to do the same thing, what do you think people choose? Answer is obvious.

            • sweatshopking
            • 9 years ago

            who’s paying? I’m not paying. neither are you likely. People don’t care about paying, anyway. they care about pretty, and shiny, and magical.

            • designerfx
            • 9 years ago

            it’s not about us paying, it’s about seeing that having a pay standard causes issues.

            google’s abandonment of H264 is the right approach, and they should be commended for it, even if most people don’t even understand it. If a company has to pay for something, that translates to having to handle things with the users differently and different licenses.

            If H264 went free, the world would support it today. Yet they refuse, so people create their own free alternatives.

            • sweatshopking
            • 9 years ago

            and why is paying for a standard an issue? you pay for everything else, why is that an issue.

            • BlackStar
            • 9 years ago

            Because in this specific case, this places a barrier of entry to protect an oligopoly of patent holders.

            Do you really wish to hand the future of the web to the MPEG-LA?

            • sweatshopking
            • 9 years ago

            Does it really matter? WE ALREADY HAVE THE OLIGOPOLY, and people seem to enjoy video just fine. why does it matter, if it doesn’t impact people?

            • poulpy
            • 9 years ago

            People’s enjoyment in this case is pretty irrelevant as most of us have strictly no opinion on a variety of subjects and are just happy to go along with something that kinda works.
            Doesn’t mean all solutions are therefore equal nor that fighting for free standards is useless.

            I’d put it the other way around: if it’s the same for people in the end (HTML5 isn’t standardized yet, let alone mainstream) why on earth would you build tomorrow’s Web foundations on some patent quicksand/potential headache?

            • insulin_junkie72
            • 9 years ago

            H.264 has become so ubiquitious everywhere already (phones, home video devices, cameras, network TV backends, etc.) that there’s a very real danger that rather than use the HTML5 video tag if WebM “wins”, that as has happened so often before in the history of the Web, standards will simply get ignored. (“Why should I use one codec virtually everywhere else, and a separate one for the Web?”)

            If that happens, then in terms of video presentation, you’ve got a Web of tomorrow that looks pretty darn similar to the Web of today (Flash-type plugins for video playback and so forth) – and I doubt that is what anyone is hoping for.

      • End User
      • 9 years ago

      I don’t think WebM is a “standard”.

    • blastdoor
    • 9 years ago

    I think that if I were a Google hardware “partner” I’d be seriously pi$$ed at google right now. They now either have to choose a WebM hardware decoder, an h264 decoder, or both. That will increase costs and/or reduce the appeal of their devices. And what are the implications for all the Android devices out there that currently have h264 hardware decoding but not webM decoding? Or will Google continue to support h264 on Android but not Chrome?

    edit — one other thought — I bet Microsoft is the big winner here. Microsoft can go to all the Android OEMs and say “see, Google has no idea how to run a platform — they’re total amateurs. Join us…”

      • sweatshopking
      • 9 years ago

      and microsoft would be right. look at samsung. they’ve announced windows phone 7 will be the bulk of their products, not android. there’s a reason for that. Microsoft has been doing this for a while. they know what they’re doing. Google hasn’t, and doesn’t.

        • poulpy
        • 9 years ago

        Where did Samsung announce WinPhone 7 was going to be the bulk of their products?
        Seems quite a strong stance and against their current trend where so far they’ve been quite big on Android.

        Speaking of which do we have fresh figures on WP7?
        Last time I checked MS was very cagey about them, which is never great news.
        Don’t get me wrong I like WP7, I think it’s a refreshing take on the mobile OS, but given the crazy growth rate of Android I don’t see a company in the Android boat completely jump ship for WP7. Well unless MS is throwing enough buckets of money around that is.

        Microsoft has been running their platform for years now yeah but they’ve got more than their share of stupid decisions, concurrent technologies, aborted projects, etc..
        Google is new in that area but MS is really far from perfect.

          • blastdoor
          • 9 years ago

          I think it will be a long hard slog for MS to establish WP7 in the market. And it’s entirely possible that regardless of what they do, say, or spend that they are simply too late. But I think the more likely scenario (compared to total failure of WP7) is that the long hard slog will pay off. The initial sales may indeed suck. But over time, the entropy of the Android platform and the ensuing frustration with Google/Android from users and OEMs, combined with the fact that there are a large number of people who simply won’t or can’t buy from Apple, means that MS will have an opening. And despite the stupidity of their current CEO, they do have within their organization the skills and experience needed to develop and support a platform over the long haul. Oh yeah — and they have a giant cash machine called Windows and another called Office which will keep paying out for at least another decade.

          In the long run, I think we will settle into an Apple-Microsoft duopoly that is much more competitive and evenly balanced than with PCs. Android will be a historical curiosity, kind of like the Commodore 64 (which had far higher market share for far longer than people realize).

            • sweatshopking
            • 9 years ago

            I agree with most of your comments, excepting the one about apple. Nokia will eventually wake up, and when they do, you’ll know. they still are the majority of the worlds phones.

            As for when did samsung annouce more windows mobile than android: Let me google that for you:

            [url<]http://www.gottabemobile.com/2010/11/17/samsung-windows-phone-7-over-android-2011-lineup/[/url<] samsung is the 2nd largest phone maker, and that's big news. Since android is under attack from lawsuits all over, and doesn't protect the phone manufacturer like phone 7 does, I expect that we'll see windows phone doing well over the long haul. it has an excellent programming environment, and great developer support.

            • poulpy
            • 9 years ago

            I had seen that single quote while Google’ing but that seemed a bit weak. I guess we’ll see but I find it hard to believe they’ll commit >60% of their phone manufacturing capacity on an unproven platform which is so far not pulling anything close to these numbers. And we know how manufacturers like to see stock sitting idle..

            [quote<]Since android is under attack from lawsuits all over[/quote<] I know of ONE pending lawsuit from Oracle/Sun about Java which is potentially a rather big battle ahead, I give you that, but Android isn't attacked from all around the place and Google has the resources to stand their ground. [quote<]and doesn't protect the phone manufacturer like phone 7 does[/quote<] Could you clarify how WP7 protects phone manufacturers? Again I've got nothing against WP7 but iOS isn't going anywhere, Android has the Free/Open factor and Google halo effect going for it (and it is also a great environment to develop for, there's a massive community there) so I don't see it going anywhere. Regarding Nokia, I don't know what to say.. I guess you're hoping on some sort of Intel/Meego revival? They've made so many bad and costly decisions and missed so many turns that it's really painful to watch. Yes they still have a decent market share when looking at worldwide handsets but most of them are rubbish/cheap phones compared to the latest and greatest iOS/Android/WP7. Then there's the tragedy of WebOS which makes me weep if I think about it too much, another great technology that didn't get a proper chance to fight for it's place.. Anyways I seriously hope we don't get to a similar situation as the OS PC world, competition is what we need and more than a duopoly please.

            • sweatshopking
            • 9 years ago

            lawsuits against android:
            [url<]http://www.linuxfordevices.com/c/a/News/Analysis-of-Microsoft-lawsuita-gainst-Motorola/[/url<] [url<]http://phandroid.com/2010/03/02/dirty-details-apple-lawsuit-attacks-android/[/url<] [url<]http://mashable.com/2010/10/26/android-gemalto-lawsuit/[/url<] there's a few. against some pretty big players. HUGE players, actually. and google offers ABSOLUTELY no protection, so they have nothing to do with it. Excluding the oracle one, which is against google, the manufacturers are at risk by using android. Microsoft protection: [url<]http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9188964/Patent_protection_key_to_Windows_Phone_7_license[/url<] I never said iOS was going anywhere. I said it wouldn't end up with a super large market share. One phone is not enough. If they licensed it, sure. I just don't see the single iphone take 40%, that's all. who knows, it could happen. WebOS was sad. it was a great OS, sucked to see it shrink. Nokia: They have made bad decisions. But they're by no means down and out. all they really would have to do, WORST CASE for them, would be to make android or windows phone 7 phones. Done. no more market share loss. I'm not hoping on anything, though meego is a more open OS than android is, and has the "official" backing of linus.

            • poulpy
            • 9 years ago

            Apple/iOS, Nokia, Motorola, etc have had their share of such lawsuits, most of these are simply sterile stand-offs where money or -more likely- patents change hands. Google has quite a few of both and bright people on-board so I’m not too worried for Android.

            Regarding Nokia even if they flipped the switch today their smartphones lineup wouldn’t wouldn’t kick start much sales in the Android world really.. IMO if their Intel/Meego experience doesn’t take off (and lets face it with a completely new 1st gen HW architecture as far as smartphones are concerned and a similarly immature OS it’s a risk) I only see them keep on declining slowly.

            The debate on how open is X or Y is funny but a bit useless IMO, Android is Free and Open and under GPL and BSD licenses, you can download it, patch it and make it available to all. The bit that’s not Open Source are some of the actual Google Application like Maps and such IIRC.
            I don’t really care of the “official” backing of Linux, he’s a very practical man who’s already advocated closed source software if he felt it was the best for the job.
            Also he’s using a Google Nexus One or at least he was last year 🙂

            I don’t read in the future so I’ll stop there with the predictions!
            (Actually I do but I don’t want to freak you guys out 🙂

            • designerfx
            • 9 years ago

            read carefully, that’s not exactly what they’re saying even from that article.

            Just because they expect to build more windows phones than android doesnt’ mean anything about the lawsuits, the future of samsung, or about developer support. If you build 50 different windows phones and 25 android phones but nobody buys the windows phones what does it matter?

            so this is nothing. this is a leaf in the wind.

            Nobody cares for winmo because already windows is going “WP7 is disappoint but 8 will be better!” and nobody gives a damn.

            • sweatshopking
            • 9 years ago

            I never said that they were going to sell more phones, just make more. I don’t know anyone who thinks 7 was disappoint. it’s an excellent OS. personally, I like android, as it is linux based, but that doesn’t stop me from appreciating the improvements microsoft has made. The features they’ve implemented WILL be copied by the competition.

            And the whole “OMG OUR OS IS GOING TO WIN!!!!” thing is moot anyway. android is mostly NA, iOS is mostly NA, and windows phone 7 is mostly NA.

            they’re only 300 million people. it’s moot.

            • designerfx
            • 9 years ago

            I think you’re just more pro MS than a lot of people. nothing wrong with that, but that’s your preference.

            Me, I only use MS begrudgingly. Sure they’ve done some good things, but they’ve done a whole lot more bad things too.

            • sweatshopking
            • 9 years ago

            I’m not pro anything. I think they all suck. I don’t like microsoft any more than i like google. I don’t. IMO though, it’s as I said it was. It’s not a matter of liking or not. It’s about sales. I personally HATE them all. capitalism, as it currently is, is evil, and I want them all to gtfo.

            • blastdoor
            • 9 years ago

            Can’t agree with you on Nokia… the problem I think is that experience as a phone company is less relevant now than experience as a computer platform company.

            • sweatshopking
            • 9 years ago

            I disagree. there are 2 major aspects to making a good phone. software, and hardware. Nokia has excellent hardware. they need good software. partnering with ms, google, or apple, will give them the other half.

        • sweatshopking
        • 9 years ago

        wtf is with the -1. F you guys. this voting system is retarded. seriously. Lose it. read the rest of my posts, they’re clear, and cited. dicks.

          • poulpy
          • 9 years ago

          Lol mate just as you posted this my 2 posts which were at +1 are now mysteriously back to 0, just saying 😉
          I don’t mind the voting, I only use the voting system when a post is utterly retarded, not when the other isn’t agreeing with me so I didn’t vote today so far.

            • sweatshopking
            • 9 years ago

            i haven’t voted. I think voting is stupid. I don’t vote.

            • poulpy
            • 9 years ago

            Well if you haven’t somebody likes you very much and has now consistently +1 your posts and -1 mines. Nice 🙂

      • stdRaichu
      • 9 years ago

      [quote<]They now either have to choose a WebM hardware decoder, an h264 decoder, or both.[/quote<] What's wrong with the "both" option? [quote<]And what are the implications for all the Android devices out there that currently have h264 hardware decoding but not webM decoding?[/quote<] It's up to the manufacturers to release a firmware with the updated hardware acceleration.

        • Wajo
        • 9 years ago

        I think you didn’t understand the “hardware” part of it. This means additional silicon needed on the platform to perform the acceleration, it’s not just a FW change.

          • stdRaichu
          • 9 years ago

          I don’t think you understand the “hardware” part of it; acceleration isn’t provided by dedicated chips, it’s generally done on stuff like GPU’s. Android uses an in-OS OGL ES API that can leverage the GPU for acceleration (although it’s not mandatory for this to be supported IIRC).

          This is how “hardware acceleration” is done on graphics cards. Hardware acceleration means that a function is accelerated by the use of hardware, not that there is dedicated hardware to accelerate a specific function – such a thing would be a complete waste of silicon, and therefore power, which is the overriding factor in most mobile design. On top of that, once you set something “in silicon” it’s impossible to change (e.g. if you find a bug or you want to support new codecs, or newer versions of old ones) which is why everyone’s been using programmable hardware for years. This is why nV and ATI changelogs are always full of “fixed XYZ issue with the H.264 decoder”.

            • Palek
            • 9 years ago

            [quote<]This is how "hardware acceleration" is done on graphics cards. Hardware acceleration means that a function is accelerated by the use of hardware, not that there is dedicated hardware to accelerate a specific function[/quote<] Nope. Hardware acceleration of video decoding on graphics cards is done mostly via dedicated hardware. AMD, nVidia and intel all have hardware video decoders in their graphics chips. Some post-processing work like de-interlacing and de-noising is passed off to the GPU, but the core decoding work is done in the VPU. Considering how highly programmable GPUs have become it is probably possible to use graphics hardware for video decoding, but that brings us to the next problem. [quote<]such a thing would be a complete waste of silicon, and therefore power, which is the overriding factor in most mobile design.[/quote<] Nope. Waste of silicon does not equal waste of power. Mobile chips are highly modular designs. You can completely switch off entire modules via clock and power gating, so blocks that are sitting idle will not consume ANY power at all. Power is indeed the overriding factor in mobile design, which brings us to the next point: dedicated hardware is ALWAYS more power-efficient than general-purpose hardware (unless your hardware design sucks, but that is another problem). This is exactly why mobile application chips are so very different from PC hardware (although there is now a new trend of PC hardware becoming more and more like mobile hardware - see Atom and Brazos). Mobile chips are a collection of numerous dedicated hardware units: video decoder/encoder, 2D/3D graphics accelerator, Java accelerator, audio DSP and so on. The CPU does a lot less heavy lifting than in a computer. When you play an MP3 on your cell-phone, for example, almost the entire application processor is put in deep sleep, except for the audio DSP, the storage interface and the audio DAC. And that is why your cell-phone can play MP3s for days without recharging. For mobile chips silicon area is much less of a concern than power. [quote<]On top of that, once you set something "in silicon" it's impossible to change (e.g. if you find a bug or you want to support new codecs, or newer versions of old ones) which is why everyone's been using programmable hardware for years.[/quote<] Almost. Sure, it is impossible to change silicon, but modern dedicated video decoders are actually highly programmable and come with their own firmware, so fixes can be applied. It might even be possible, although typically unlikely, to add support of newer codecs to existing hardware, since video codecs tend to have a lot in common.

            • Wajo
            • 9 years ago

            If you had followed the link and read the freaking website, mr. know it all, you would have seen that what google is offering here is the RTL source code (VHDL or Verilog) for semiconductor companies to implement (among other things).

            It even mentions the number of gates that each design requires (decoder and encoder).

            Now if you tell me that all handset makers include spare FPGA’s (or heavily underused ones) in their designs just for the hell of it. Then yes, this is just a “firmware update” away from working.

      • no51
      • 9 years ago

      More evidence that my assertion that Andriod = WinMo by Google w/ touch optimized interface is correct.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This