Microsoft move could be the end of the JPEG

Microsoft Corp. will soon submit to an international standards organization a new photo format that offers higher-quality images with better compression, the company said today.The format, HD Photo -- recently renamed from Windows Media Photo -- is taking aim at the JPEG format, a 15-year-old technology widely used in digital cameras and image applications. Both formats take images and use compression to make the file sizes smaller so more photos can fit on a memory card. During compression, however, the quality of the photo tends to degrade.

Microsoft said HD Photo's lightweight algorithm causes less damage to photos during compression, with higher-quality images that are half the size of a JPEG. The format can also accommodate "lossless" and "lossy" compression, two methods of compressing photo data with different effects on image quality. Microsoft said adjustments can be made to color balance and exposure settings that won't discard or truncate data that occurs with other bit-map formats.

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