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Nokia Claims Ogg Format is "Proprietary" 619

a nona maus writes "Several months ago a workgroup of the W3C decided to include Ogg/Theora+Vorbis as the recommended baseline video codec standard for HTML5, against Apple's aggressive protest. Now, Nokia seems to be seeking a reversal of that decision: they have released a position paper calling Ogg 'proprietary' and citing the importance of DRM support. Nokia has historically responded to questions about Ogg on their internet tablets with strange and inconsistent answers, along with hand waving about their legal department. This latest step is enough to really make you wonder what they are really up to."
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Nokia Claims Ogg Format is "Proprietary"

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  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @05:36PM (#21634313) Homepage Journal
    "When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in a rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.

    "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean different things."

    "The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master -- that's all."

    Alice was too much puzzled to say anything, so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again.

    "They've a temper, some of them -- particularly verbs, they're the proudest -- adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs -- however, I can manage the whole lot! Impenetrability! That's what I say!"

  • Apple and Ogg (Score:5, Interesting)

    by christurkel ( 520220 ) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @05:44PM (#21634393) Homepage Journal
    Apple doesn't support Ogg, which as a Mac user bums me. It shouldn't be hard to add support.
  • by Mantaar ( 1139339 ) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @05:48PM (#21634417) Homepage
    I still don't understand why though.

    Apart from it not supporting DRM, ogg has only advantages - it's equal or superior to most other codecs (the widely used mp3 and wma are inferior) and it's open-source w/o patents restrictions...

    Seriously, does anyone have an explanation for that?
  • ACC/H2.64 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Stevecrox ( 962208 ) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @05:48PM (#21634425) Journal
    Its seems Nokia wants to support Apples codecs, rather than Ogg or MP3 (although MP3 is mentioned as a possible) I found the paper interesting as they talk about majorally accepted file formats they state their after ACC, I always thought ACC was about as popular as Ogg with MP3 the generally accepted and mainstream codec.

    Personnally I'd rather see divx and mp3 be used as the next standards, but Xvid and Ogg would be cool.
  • Reaaallly? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nmoog ( 701216 ) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @05:49PM (#21634443) Homepage Journal
    This document was written by Stephan Wanger [] who, according to his bio "serves on the Board of Directors of UB Video Inc., a leading supplier of video compression software".

    I wonder if this has anything to do with him not particularly liking ogg?
  • Poorly Written (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Selanit ( 192811 ) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @06:00PM (#21634561)

    For a position paper issued by a major company, that was awfully rough. I found several spelling mistakes ("anoher" for "another") for example. Apparently Nokia can't be bothered to run a spell checker on documents like this one. And call me crazy, but usually you don't use smiley faces like :-) in a position paper (as he does on page four). Then we have sentences like this one, which is the bit about Ogg being proprietary:

    Anything beyond that, including a W3C-lead standardization of a "free" codec, or the active endorsement of proprietary technology such as Ogg, ..., by W3C, is, in our opinion, not helpful for the co-existence of the two ecosystems (web and video), and therefore not our choice.

    Holy comma splice, Batman! And isn't it redundant to talk about a "W3C-lead standardization ... by W3C"? But te worst thing here is the totally unclear use of "proprietary." At other places in the document, the author recommends selecting "older media compression standards, of which one can be reasonably sure that related patents are expired (or are close to expiration)." Which seems odd. Isn't the whole attraction of Ogg Theora that it isn't patented at all? Why recommend an older standard that IS patented over a newer one that isn't? And how exactly does that come under the label "proprietary" anyway?

    As a position paper, then, it could be better. It does in fact give their position. But it does so in a way which is unclear, and its author doesn't seem to think that writing a position paper is different from writing a comment on a web forum.

  • False advertising (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 09, 2007 @06:00PM (#21634563)

    They're currently selling one of their models with the advertising line "Takes all music formats", when in fact it doesn't do Ogg Vorbis, nor FLAC nor any of the many other formats in wide use.

  • by denelson83 ( 841254 ) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @06:14PM (#21634685)
    That's a corollary of Embrace, Extend and Extinguish.
  • Re:ACC/H2.64 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by netcrusher88 ( 743318 ) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .88rehsurcten.> on Sunday December 09, 2007 @06:14PM (#21634689)
    First off, it's actually AAC. And it's not proprietary, at least not to Apple - AAC (Advanced Audio Coding) is part of the MPEG-4 standard and intended as a successor to MP3, though like MP3 it legally requires a patent license. Also H.264 is not an Apple codec - it's an ITU standard, also known as MPEG-4 Part 10, or AVC (but again with the patent nonsense).

    I think why Apple picked them up is that they are about the best codecs out there (I'm not going to entertain a debate between AAC and OGG quality, please, the reasoning here is that H.264 and AAC are DESIGNED to work together). Also AAC is very good at surround sound, something MP3 has never been popular for, perhaps for the reasons below.

    The reason that the community and market have been slow to accept them are that they are more complicated, thus heavier and/or more expensive to implement, as well as the fact that Xvid and Divx (same thing, different encoders - another part of MPEG-4 by the way) can (or used to) produce smaller filesizes for video, and at standard def you wouldn't really know the difference. But as HD content has become more popular, it's become more common to find media in H.264 with AAC 5.1 audio, and as en- and decoders get better (not to mention computers) H.264 and AAC present less of a relative strain on both disk (or bandwidth) and processor, and at HD resolution the hit to speed is completely worth it.

    I think this might be way Nokia is pushing H.264 and AAC - they present real possibility for advancement into high-def streaming content, something that other codecs really don't. Please note that I really haven't had any experience with Ogg Theora (which is NOT the same as Ogg Vorbis) in high-def environments, so I can't really say for sure. Also I'm not sure how it is at streaming.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 09, 2007 @06:15PM (#21634713)
    Actually Nokia has a great history with "open" standards (generally defined as RAND as opposed to royalty free). In fact Nokia's entire current business comes out of it's ability to cooperate with arch rivals such as Ericsson to build open standards such as NMT, GSM and WCDMA. So the question is not "why is Nokia opposed to open standards?". The question is "why is Nokia opposing this standard?"

    Reading through the document, it's actually much more reaonable (DRM should be possible, but shouldn't be mandatory) than implied. The OGG thing, however, is very interesting. To me it almost reads like they know someone who has a fundamental patent on OGG. A fundamental patent is one which can't be avoided to implement a standard and thus guarantees control of the standard. However, give that have done a patent search and claim that OGG is patent free and nobody has contradicted them, I can think of at least two more likely things here.

    a) the recent Microsoft / Nokia WMA licensing agreements have seriously crippled Nokias freedom to operate with different formats.

    b) they are afraid of the fact that whilst OGG is open, control of how the standard evolves is "proprietary". By this they mean not under control of an "open" standardisation body that they can join. Looking at it; seems to have too much industry independence.

    Make no mistake, though, the Nokia of five years ago is probably not the Nokia of today. Where old Nokia was trying to deliver devices to let you do whatever you wanted to do, new Nokia is trying to become a media company and that means is almost certainly joining the dark side.
  • by halk ( 139476 ) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @06:23PM (#21634793)
    Ogg Theora is a product of a single company. It has not been standardized by any recognized standards organisation. That indeed makes it "proprietary".

      The company, On2 Technologies, has disclaimed all patent right on the technology. However, as far as I know they are not a significant holder of video compression patents. I don't think any actual big video patent holders has commented about Theora. This means that there is a significant risk of submarine patents.

    According to the paper Theora is comparable in performance to the old H.261 codec. H.261 is about 20 years old so all patents on it have most likely expired. H.261 is widely implemented and if the performance claims are true, it makes Theora rather pointless.
  • Re:Apple and Ogg (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF ( 813746 ) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @06:27PM (#21634831)

    But I hope you weren't under the impression that Apple is actually against DRM in principle.

    I think you're following a red herring here. Apple is opposed to DRM, from pure selfishness, but that applies as much to Vvideo as it does to audio. Apple implements DRM when they have to and removes it when they can, this is because their goal is to sell hardware. To sell hardware, you need content. If they can only get content with DRM, they'll try to use minimal DRM under their control because their goal is to make things as easy for users as possible, because then more people buy their hardware. If they can do away with it, well that is even easier for users and will sell even more hardware.

    No, Apple's opposition to Vorbis as a standard has little to do with DRM, as they could always apply DRM encapsulation for it. Actually I suspect Apple is just heavily invested in the MPEG standard, which is not as open, but is DRM agnostic as well. Having developed a lot of technologies on top of the MPEG standard as well as both pro and consumer tools for creating it, Apple just sees no benefit to them for Vorbis, since licensing costs are not all that significant.

  • by explosivejared ( 1186049 ) <> on Sunday December 09, 2007 @06:32PM (#21634873)
    And what makes mp3 more easy than ogg?

    Well for one thing the PC is not the primary player for most people. iPod's and other "MP3" players are. MP3 is the lingua franca for audio, which makes it much easier to deal in for most. Most people don't make their own files. My previous post was primarily speaking to why ogg hasn't received more support across the industry and user base. Which format to use for encoding your own music or for maximizing your storage space (which isn't a real problem in the days a of 500 gb hdd) is a completely different argument from the one I was discussing.
  • Re:Poorly Written (Score:2, Interesting)

    by cbart387 ( 1192883 ) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @06:34PM (#21634901)
    I had the same initial thought as you, until I found that these 'position papers' are not really meant [] for publication. Not sure why you'd allow them to be accessed through the internet (I wouldn't), but at least they're not meant to be formal.
  • by ShieldW0lf ( 601553 ) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @07:05PM (#21635193) Journal
    You know, as network speeds and storage capacities have been improving so dramatically, the importance of compression has decreased in a similar fashion. MPEG-4 became pervasive because it allowed people to share movies illegally. Nowadays, you can download an ISO of a DVD and it's no big deal.

    Now, licensing on the other hand becomes more important as the number of people in the network increases and as the speed with which people can access it increases because there's more people who might have had access but are being prevented by encumbered standards. Ogg never would have been developed if not for the legal encumbrance on mp3 compression, but now it's a free, proven and superior standard that has seen use in numerous commercial games.

    The technical inferiorities of Theora just mean your perfectly good looking video streams are a little bigger than MP4 streams. With bandwidth and storage as cheap as it is, that's cheaper to deal with than licensing for distribution.
  • by Original Replica ( 908688 ) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @07:12PM (#21635239) Journal
    Big media isn't interested unless it is going to help with DRM.

    Executives with 7 figure salaries aren't interested unless it's going to help with DRM. As in most industries the top level of management has almost nothing to do with the actual industry, that is the actual work of making the product. How many music company executives have degrees in Music Theory?
  • Re:Apple and Ogg (Score:3, Interesting)

    by webmaster404 ( 1148909 ) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @07:32PM (#21635385)
    No, you have to realize that Apple is a proprietary Unix vendor, and thus opposed to Linux, OGG and other Free Software. Although they reconize open-source software is good, they still are a propriatary Unix vendor much like Sun.
  • No. You're wrong. (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 09, 2007 @07:38PM (#21635441)
    One of the sibling posters hinted at it, but let me spell it out since you're still +5.

    AAC is just as unencumbered as Ogg-Vorbis and (when unencrypted) has about the same market share. AAC is implemented in QT and on the iPod, therefore this is NOT about DRM. Fairly irrefutable.

    If you want my opinion on what it *is* about, I would say it's about the "black box" approach Apple has to the user experience. Apple isn't going to do anything unless it works with *everything* they make. Therefore, regardless of how simple the codec itself is, Ogg-Vorbis is going to take a certain amount of labor to implement, and so it's not gonna get done. AAC gets implemented since it's the basis for the iTMS encrypted format, and MP3 gets done because of market share. Nothing else. It's the Apple Way (tm).
  • by Wesley Felter ( 138342 ) <> on Sunday December 09, 2007 @08:10PM (#21635687) Homepage
    I think you're missing the point. Nokia and many other companies have already paid the MPEG-4 license fees, because if they shipped a device that only supports Vorbis+Theora then customers would complain that "this thing can't play any videos that I have". In the real world, MPEG-4/H.264 is it. That's why there are a ton of HOWTOs about installing "free" MPEG-4 codecs under Linux. There are virtually no tools to encode in Theora and thus virtually no content. I doubt that will change if W3C makes Theora mandatory to implement in Web browsers. What would actually happen is that browsers would implement both "mandatory" Theora and "optional" MPEG-4 and people would go on using MPEG-4 like they do today. Thus Nokia would not save any money on patent licenses, and they'd have to spend more money on supporting a codec that no one uses.
  • by plazman30 ( 531348 ) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @08:35PM (#21635893) Homepage
    You would think big media could care less about DRM these days, with the move even by Microsoft to offer songs in non-DRMed MP3 format.

    Of course, we all know, the point to this DRM-free music is to simply attack the iTunes Music Store. If they could actually successfully knock iTunes down a lot, then watch and see how fast DRM-free tracks will disappear from Amazon, Microsoft and other online outfits, claiming the big experiment was a failure and piracy must be curbed.
  • Re:Reaaallly? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by PCM2 ( 4486 ) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @09:14PM (#21636191) Homepage

    I wonder if this has anything to do with him not particularly liking ogg?

    His name is Wenger, and you're probably right. If I had this guy's level of experience in digital multimedia and was as actively involved as he is in implementing such widely-used, RAND-licensed formats as MPEG-2, MPEG-4, H.264 etc. (which is what UB Video provided, [] before it was bought by Scientific Atlanta, [] itself now a subsidiary of Cisco), then I might have reason to not particularly like OGG, Vorbis, Theora, etc., either. Or, for you tin-foil hatters, just because it's a conspiracy doesn't mean the conspiracy doesn't know what it's talking about.

  • by Idaho ( 12907 ) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @09:26PM (#21636277)

    I ripped my whole CD collection in ogg about a year ago. Last week, I went to buy my first mp3 player, and I can't find a single one in my "budget" price range that has ogg support

    That is because, with hindsight, you where doing it wrong.

    Just rip all your CD's to FLAC, which is a lossless format. Then just transcode it for whatever device you want, from the "original" FLAC's. Admittedly, what is lacking (at last in Linux) is some easy software to do this, at least as far as I'm aware. (It's much worse on Mac OS X, because iTunes does not support FLAC). Of course, someone might write a trivial script to do the transcoding automatically, but it would be much more convenient if you could just select part of your music library for syncing with other devices, then have the transcoding happen automatically. (sure, it would slow down syncing a bit, but on todays Core 2 Duo's, who cares really..). In other words, it needs a convenient GUI.

    Then, before you complain about the amount of space needed for FLAC files as compared to OGG or MP3: the FLAC encoder will compress most albums (even classical music) down to somewhere between 33-50% of their original size. That means about 200-300 MB for the average (1 hour) album. A 500 GB harddisk these days sets you back slightly less than $100. It will fit about 2000 full albums (you do the math).

    Now of course I'm not sure how many CD's you own, but certainly if you would own more than 2000 full albums I'm sure you could also afford another $100 harddisk.

    If you have less than 500 albums (which I think would be true for about 99,999% of the population) you could even get away with just storing the raw PCM/WAV files, and only encoding them while transferring them to portable devices. The need to compress at least *music* on desktop machines is really a thing of the past now. It's just that most people didn't realize this is the case, yet.
  • by Zeinfeld ( 263942 ) on Sunday December 09, 2007 @11:38PM (#21637227) Homepage
    Not as funny as the only person in this thread that actually read the article, which was about Nokia's complaints over Ogg+Theora as a video standard getting modded troll for pointing out that all of the other random drivel about the superior audio format is completely irrelevant...

    Well thats par for the course here, slashy tends to be more of a fanzine.

    I read the Nokia paper, the summary seems to misrepresent it. Some of the points were actually ones that I had made at the W3C AC plenary: Some of the older audio and video formats are comming out of patent soon, it might be nice to know precisely when. I would like to see an unencumbered standard CODEC that all browsers support, that does not necessarily have to be Ogg if MPEG2 and AC3 are due to expire in the near future.

    I know that ACC and H.264 offer better compression and in fact I expect them to be used to deliver the bulk of Web content. The trick is how to ensure that the cost of using these technologies is proportional to the value of the bandwidth that they save (a few hundred million dollars) rather than the value of the applications they enable (a few hundred billion dollars).

    One of the somewhat frustrating problems here is that useful comparisons of compression quality are pretty hard to come by. One comparison I read disqualified Ogg Theora because it did not compress The Matrix to fit on a CD. In other words a totally arbitrary cut off point. Why choose that movie, who cares about the capacity of a CDROM?

    Quite a few MPEG2 patents have expired already, it would take a lot of work to find out when they all expire though. Main question would be what happens with submarine patents at this point.

    The reason I prefer this approach is that I just don't think that anyone can invent a new video compression scheme and be sure that it is unencumbered. We thought that GIF was unencumbered when we made it the standard image format for the Web, turned out that we were wrong but there was no way we could have known at the time. I don't like chosing Ogg for the same reason, I would prefer to be absolutely sure we have an unencumbered spec which means choosing something obsolete.

  • Yes there is (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Monday December 10, 2007 @01:12AM (#21638129)
    Non-discriminatory doesn't mean "Doing whatever anyone wants," it just means being consistent. In the case of a license it means two things:

    1) The license must be available to all comers. You do not get to choose who gets a license, anyone who pays the fee gets a license.

    2) The fee must be fixed. One person can't get a sweetheart deal and another get the shaft.

    You meet those criteria, that is a non-discriminatory license, you aren't discriminating.

    Take a situation where I own a bar. If I have a night where I sell beer to any customer for $2, that's a non-discriminatory special. Whoever you are, you get to have beer for that price. However if I run a special where only girls in tight shirts get $2 beers, that's a discriminatory special. I am dictating who or what you must be or do to get the pricing.

    Trying to redefine things just because you don't like how it works doesn't change how it really is. You aren't being discriminated against just because someone won't give you something for free. You are only being discriminated against if they will give it to someone else for free, but not you.
  • by Ploum ( 632141 ) on Monday December 10, 2007 @04:19AM (#21639269) Homepage
    Firstly, they must see if they will make profit with DRM. See the DRM equation for this : []
  • by rifter ( 147452 ) on Monday December 10, 2007 @05:15AM (#21639543) Homepage

    You probably wouldn't be buying a movie and then streaming it over the net in your browser (or your phone).

    Actually, people already are. Netflix had to start doing this because their competitors already did. It's only going to increase, and companies want to slop at the new trough.

  • Re:OGG player (Score:4, Interesting)

    by indifferent children ( 842621 ) on Monday December 10, 2007 @09:24AM (#21640737)
    I have a Samsung (YP-U1, usb stick), it's just a USB mass storage device.

    I have the same stick (from ~2 years ago). With the American firmware, it is not a USB Mass Storage device; you have to use MTP to transfer files (it honors DRM, of course). I re-flashed it with a European firmware from Samsung's international website, and not only is it now a USB Mass Storage device, but it now supports Ogg/Vorbis.

    I went looking to see why the US firmware didn't have Ogg/Vorbis support, and it seems that in order to get Microsoft's "Plays For Sure" logo, your device is not allowed to support Ogg/Vorbis. Since that logo program didn't exist for Europe, Samsung left Ogg/Vorbis support in the European version of their firmware.

  • by GeckoX ( 259575 ) on Monday December 10, 2007 @12:17PM (#21642959)
    Yep, agreed, Ogg, Vorbis, doomed to failure. Been doomed to failure for most of a decade. Any moment now, it'll be nothing but a memory. Here it goes...going...going...Hmm...not gone yet. Interesting. But it will I tell you! It'll be dead in no time now!

    Hint: Have you any idea at all how many video games use Ogg? And can you think of why that might be?

    No one used DAT tapes for their media collections...and yet, it was most certainly not a failure. You know, sometimes there's room for more than one technology. There's these things called niches. There are internal, closed systems. Not everything is a consumer end product.

    We do not have to discuss Ogg in terms of being an end user accepted format for it to be a viable format. And it has most certainly proven itself and become very entrenched in certain areas.

    But hey, you just go on and argue for the sake of arguing mmkay?

The absent ones are always at fault.