Image Processing Reference
the manufacturer, which will choose to drop a particular product or cease support for it
whenever that suits its commercial needs.
The conventional wisdom is that, if you choose not to deploy WM9, your potential
reach to consumers is restricted. The argument is often used that a considerable number
of Windows users have the Series 9 support already installed when they buy their com-
puter and are not prepared to upgrade or replace it with Real or QuickTime.
That argument might be true of consumers that are not computer literate. Inside a
corporate environment where the IT department creates a standard desktop environment,
that argument is not as compelling. The IT department might choose to install Real
Networks or QuickTime players everywhere, and there is no additional installation over-
head since it is likely the hard disks are prepared by cloning/ghosting a standard image
or running some automated installation process.
You should establish an accurate profile of the target user base before committing to
one format or another.
Benefits of Adopting Windows Media
With a Windows Media-based service, you know for certain that a lot of people will be
able to play your content. You can offer rich media services with the knowledge that there
is a large potential audience.
You should still survey your target audience because a lot of people might be run-
ning older versions of Windows. Some of them might not have the media player installed
by default, or they may be running older versions of the media player.
This could determine the codec that you use. For example, you might choose WM7
codecs because they will play back in Series 8 and 9 players as well.
But you still have to decide what to do for those people who don't have Windows
Media Player and will never install it.
Implications of H.264 for Windows Media
Does MPEG-4 and in particular the H.264 codec threaten Windows Media in any way?
Choosing the Windows Media technology is a good solution if you plan to reach all of a
captive audience who you know will have that player installed.
It is not yet clear how this situation with media players, dominant codecs, and market
leadership will play out. Microsoft must see H.264 as a threat to its dominance of the
streamed-video and TV marketplace. It has been trying to win that market over for some time
now. The WebTV, Ultimate TV, eHome, and xBox products are examples of the technologies
Microsoft has developed as part of that strategy. For now, the VC-1 codec being worked on
by SMPTE seems to be the Microsoft response to the potential threat of H.264 dominance.
This has not gone as smoothly as first anticipated, and the expectation of a rapid turnaround
for the standards documents in a 6- to 12-month time frame now seems to have been too opti-
mistic. There is as yet no clear indication of when the standard will finally be ratified.