Steve Jobs: A Patent Pool Is Being Assembled to Go After Theora
By on April 30th, 2010

Apple Most of you have probably read Steve Jobs’ thoughts on Flash. It was undoubtedly an entertaining read. He was spot on about Flash being a closed platform, which has a poor security and stability track record. Yet, anyone with an analytical mind could not help but notice the hypocrisy inherent in the letter by Apple chief.

OSNews has already done a brilliant job at dissecting the letter and illustrating Jobs’ ‘holier than thou’ attitude, so I won’t be repeating the same points over here. Even Fake Diary of Steve Jobs succeeded in highlighting the shortcomings in Jobs’ reasoning – albeit in its own tongue in cheek way. Both of them are highly recommended reading.

Anyway, Steve Jobs’ open letter prompted Hugo Roy to write another open letter to Jobs’, to which Mr. Roy surprisingly enough received a reply. You can find both Hugo’s letter and Jobs’ reply over here. Here I am concerning myself only with Jobs’ reply.

From: Steve Jobs
To: Hugo Roy
Subject: Re:Open letter to Steve Jobs: Thoughts on Flash
Date 30/04/2010 15:21:17

All video codecs are covered by patents. A patent pool is being assembled to go after Theora and other open sourcecodecs now. Unfortunately, just because something is open source, it doesn’t mean or guarantee that it doesn’t infringe on others patents. An open standard is different from being royalty free or open source.

Sent from my iPad

(emphasis mine)

If I am not completely misreading things, Steve Jobs’ letter seems to strongly hint that Theora may soon face a patent infringement lawsuit. If you are wondering why Theora matters, check out my post on the recent codec squabble. In brief, browser vendors haven’t managed to agree on the codec to be used for the HTML5 <video> tag. The two major codecs being considered are H.264 and Ogg Theora. While Opera and Firefox are backing the open source Ogg Theora, Safari and Internet Explorer have pledged to go with the proprietary H.264 codec. Google Chrome supports both.

Theora is built on On2′s VP3, which was open sourced and handed over to the Xiph.Org Foundation. Most of the patents related to video codecs are owned by MPEG LA. So, in all likelihood it is playing an active role in gathering the afore mentioned patent pool. Interestingly enough, Apple is also a part of MPEG LA. MPEG LA is also the firm which stands to benefit if H.264 becomes the de-facto standard for web video. It’s not very hard to see the interrelation among the recent developments. I would leave it up to you to draw your own conclusions, but one thing is sure – the codec squabble will only get murkier.

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Author: Pallab De Google Profile for Pallab De
Pallab De is a blogger from India who has a soft spot for anything techie. He loves trying out new software and spends most of his day breaking and fixing his PC. Pallab loves participating in the social web; he has been active in technology forums since he was a teenager and is an active user of both twitter (@indyan) and facebook .

Pallab De has written and can be contacted at pallab@techie-buzz.com.

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