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Google Buys Video Compression Company On2
Earlier today Google announced that it had acquired On2 Technologies in a stock deal worth approximately $106 million. There’s little true information about how Google intends to use On2 in the release. Here’s the Google quote:
“Today video is an essential part of the web experience, and we believe high-quality video compression technology should be a part of the web platform,” said Sundar Pichai, Vice President, Product Management, Google. “We are committed to innovation in video quality on the web, and we believe that On2’s team and technology will help us further that goal.”
On2 essentially offers customers video compression technology. There are both PC (YouTube) and mobile implications here. There are others with more technical insights than I on these issues, so here are a few blurbs from them:
Just about everyone that powers online video or has their own Flash player, including Adobe, continues to pay On2 licensing fees for its VP6 video codec. However, in the last couple of years, the industry has largely chosen H.264 as VP6’s successor. Though H.264’s selling point is its high quality, a big part of the reason people moved away from VP6 was those On2 licensing fees. “It was like dealing with Tony Soprano every year,” said a source today. “If you were a day late…It was archaic licensing. It was just a nightmare.”
Still, VP6 is already installed on computers everywhere, and with Google managing its licensing (or even dropping it), the format could come back into power. The open-source video compression format of choice, OGG Theora, which is being pushed by Mozilla, has not won industrywide confidence, so it could be that Google is trying to substitute another contender. Google, with its Chrome browser, is one of the leaders of the new HTML 5 standard, which handles video natively and could eventually eliminate the need for Flash and Silverlight-type plug-ins.
I would pay special attention to what Google does with On2 on Android, because there is an opportunity for it to outshine rivals such as RIM and Apple. Just look at On2’s mobile video arsenal: It owns technologies for embedded video for mobile platforms (Hantro) and On2 TrueMobile System, a mobile video system designed to send video across the networks — including 2.5G, Edge, 3G and 4G networks — using On2’s VP7 technology.
Some of its codec designs are known as VP3, VP4, VP5, TrueMotion VP6, TrueMotion VP7 and VP8. Its customers include Adobe, Skype, Nokia, Infineon, Sun Microsystems, Mediatek, Sony, Brightcove, and Move Networks. On2, formerly known as The Duck Corporation, is headquartered in Clifton Park, NY . . .
If would be great if Google decides to open-source On2’s VP7 and VP8 video codecs and free them up as the worldwide video codec standards, thus becoming alternatives to the proprietary and licenced H264 codecs. On2 has always claimed VP7 is better quality than H264 at the same bitrate.
Also noteworthy: Google could use the VP8 codec for YouTube in HTML5 mode, basically forcing its many users to upgrade to HTML5-compliant browsers instead of using Flash formats.
If you just can’t get enough of this sort of analysis and video-format speak, there’s more on Techmeme.