Thursday, March 8, 2007

The end of JPEG

This is what today's Microsoft announcement at PMA suggests. Textually, they stated "HD Photo offers compression with up to twice the efficiency of JPEG, with fewer damaging artifacts, resulting in higher-quality images that are onehalf the file size. In addition, HD Photo offers increased image fidelity, preserving the entire original image content and enabling higher-quality exposure and color adjustments in the image. This new format offers the ability to decode only the information needed for any resolution or region, or the option to manipulate the image as compressed data." Is this the end of JPEG?

If you missed the announcement at PMA, you can read the press release. Microsoft claims its new format allows lossless or high-quality lossy compression and in addition also floating-point high-dynamic-range image encoding. Furthermore, it allows the efficient decoding for multiple resolutions and subregions. If you combine this information with their claim that it delivers compression quality comparable with JPEG-2000, it is possible that HD Photo is similar to JPEG-2000, and based on wavelet encoding. At this point I do not know and will have to wait for more information from Microsoft.

Will HD Photo replace JPEG? An indication may be that JPEG-2000, which has a similar feature set, did not replace JPEG. This is because JPEG is easy to implement and extremely efficient, especially if the hardware has circuits for the butterfly operation. Camera manufacturers need all the cycles they have for image processing, and they may not be willing to give those cycles up for HD Photo. Introducing a new format late in the game is difficult as we learned with FlashPix and JPEG-2000. But at this point we should be positive and give it a spin with the downloadable Photoshop plug-in.