Google just recently launched YouTube Gaming, and with it a new generation, not to mention new market, of video streaming users. But while that’s well and good from a business perspective, it poses a technological problem for the future when video streaming has become as common as, say, simply loading web pages. Add to that the growing number of 2K, and even some 4K, video content that will soon snake its way online. Good thing then, that Google is already developing the next gen VP10 technology to face those situations head on.
With the popularity of video streaming, from YouTube to Netflix, the demand for quality has also increased considerably. Gone are the days when you’d be satisfied with 240p quality of funny cat videos. Whether you’re watching the latest Netflix original or living vicariously through some gamer’s screen, there is a need to be able to deliver video fast but also in high quality.
At the heart of this is compression and decompression technologies or codecs. There has so far been two competing voices in this field, Google’s VP and MPEG LA’s H.264. The latter has so far gotten the lion’s share of the market, with more industry backers than either Google’s VP8 or VP9, despite both being used in YouTube. That’s not daunting Google, however, who is already working on VP10, due in a few years, to offer an even better compression quality that would make ferrying even 4K video a snap. However, it might not actually be its technical feature that would make VP10 interesting to former supporters of H.264.
HEVC/H.265 is poised to become the next standard but it is being hampered by licensing issues. The HEVC Advance group, backed by the likes of Philips, Dolby, and GE, are demanding for a higher licensing fee than MPEG LA before. Whereas MPEG LA charged 20 cents per device using the technology, the HEVC Advance wants to charge 80 cents for mobile devices and $1.15 for TVs. That’s just the base price. The group also wants to charge 0.5 percent of all revenue generated from HEVC-encoded content. That might seem small on an individual basis, but it all adds up.
That said, Google’s VP10 isn’t the holy grail, at least not yet. Its promise of better compression will come at the cost of requiring more processing, a burden that CPUs, particularly mobile ones, will have to bear. This will require that hardware manufacturers, especially chip makers, rally behind the codec to implement it at the very core of their hardware. Sadly, that might still be a long time coming, if support for VP9 today is any indication.