Monday, May 29, 2006

Will WMP surpass JPEG2000?

This morning I read a news item on image formats in TechNewsWorld. Microsoft is propagating the Windows Media Photo (WMP). Microsoft is integrating this standard in the beta version of the new operating system Vista and going to compete with present JPEG standard. WMP will be half of volume size of the present JPEG pictures and contain many features such as extra metadata and regions and sub-regions. Has the Microsoft industry standard a chance?

At first sight, the new standard has the advantage of being distributed in the new operating system package; so people will experience this as a free bonus. Also camera manufacturers are supporting the new industry standard and have developed software for their cameras. With new features and support from the hardware industry, the Microsoft standard can make it.

Yet, I am not so sure, that the distribution of the standard and the support will guarantee acceptance. WMP is not the first software to upgrade image format standards. From 2000 to 2002 there was a trend to upgrade the JPEG standard to JPEG2000. Who is using this standard at present? Most likely some professionals are using it, but amateurs are not using it. This while JPEG2000 improved the quality of the colours and the use of metadata as well as it can yield new applications in professional health imaging.

At that time the European Commission had a project, Migrator 2000, aimed at providing an authoring tool for image users to smoothly migrate from the JPEG format or from no compression to JPEG2000 compression. In this tool the following key modules were to be integrated:
- Image acquisition and manipulation;
- Documentation of images (metadata) ;
- Image registration with a license plate;
- JPEG2000 compression and decompression ;
- Watermarking and monitoring.
Many of these modules were re-using existing libraries, while the watermarking modules have been implemented thanks to the EC Project framework.

Migrator 2000 had impact on different levels. The project provided a conduit from the existing JPEG format to the new JPEG2000 compression, while for new illustrations to be digitised it offered all the options of the new standard. In the decompression and compression area, the Region of Interest is the most outstanding feature for medical imaging. On the level of images JPEG2000 provides documentation on the images in the form of metadata such as the title, date, origin, the photographer and the Region of Interest, but also on the copying routines. The addition of image registration with a license and watermarking has added an IPR angle to the technology, establishing three levels of security: a license plate, an identifier of user and a watermark.

A professional photo institute like Alinari in Firenze (Italy) has been closely involved in the development and application of this standard. The university of Louvain was involved in the development for medical imaging. But in 2006 there is still no official standard by the international standard body ISO yet. But even if the standard is accepted by the ISO, there might be a problem of IPR, as part of the software routines are copyrighted.

As such WMP might surpass JPEG2000, the standard that is still attempting to become a standard.

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Blog Posting Number: 391

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