MPEG-4 backers protest Microsoft license

Proponents of MPEG-4 are decrying Microsoft's new licensing fees for rival technology, saying that the pricing poses unfair competition and threatens consumer choice.

In a first-ever move for Microsoft, it set pricing this week for licensing of its audio and video compression technology, or codecs, for use on non-Windows operating systems. The company says it will charge 10 cents per decoder, 20 cents per encoder, and 25 cents for both.

In comparison, MPEG LA--a consortium of companies holding patents attached to implementations of the MPEG-4 standard--charges 25 cents per encoder and decoder, or 50 cents for both--a fee structure finalized in November. MPEG-4 is an emerging standard for the delivery of digital media on PCs, DVDs and consumer electronics.

By undercutting the price, critics say, Microsoft is threatening the industry's natural tendency to migrate to open standards that allow many companies to work together seamlessly to service mass media with better choice. MPEG-2, for example, MPEG-4's predecessor, is the standard currently used by most digital cable providers and DVD manufacturers.

"Is every camcorder going to have a Windows logo on the side of it, or is every DVD going to play back in Microsoft Windows Media format?" said Elliot Broadwin, chief executive of iVast, which sells digital media delivery software based on MPEG-4.

"The interest of consumers is best served when they have choice--which is exactly what open industry standards, like MPEG-2 and MPEG-4, are designed to provide," he said.

Microsoft "politely disagreed" with Santa Clara, Calif.-based iVast's claims.

News source: CNET News - MPEG-4 backers protest Microsoft license

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