John Nack’s post on HD Photo reminded me that I wanted to write something about this. HD Photo is part of Vista and used to be called Windows Meda Photo. It’s a new file format for representing images, which looks to be superior to JPEG in every way except one. Apparently, Microsoft holds some patents on HD Photo which don’t expire until (at least) 2010. That means that it won’t be possible to build open source implementations of HD Photo. There is a lot of code out in the world that relies on an open source JPEG decompressor, and that code isn’t going to be able to do HD Photo for quite some time.
Technically HD Photo sounds great, and as a photographer I can easily appreciate the benefits of the new format. But this reminds me of the whole proprietary RAW format issue. People are recording their life in their photos, and it’s important for them to know that they will be able to bring those photographs forward with them no matter what file format they chose. I think that Microsoft could set themselves apart as a leader here by changing the licensing of HD Photo. They’ve already done it once.
Adobe opened up PDF this week. It would be awesome for photographers and the users of digital pictures if Microsoft would do the same for HD Photo.