It's Official! Google's VP8 Goes Open Source!
Yes, it's official, but not quite actually "officially" official until Google announces it during their annual I/O developers conference over the next two days...
The gobbling Google has been busy acquiring bleeding edge technology firms for some time now. The laundry list includes Grand Central and Gizmo5 along with their VoIP infrastructure offerings, On2 with it's VP8 video codec technology, and now, for $68.2 million, it is adding Global IP Solutions (GIPS) - holder of the chat technologies that power the Yahoo and AOL instant messengers which compete directly with Google.
Google is smart, but not all of their launches achieve perigee, and some of those rockets tumble back to earth - like Google Docs. But even if Google doesn't always get it right the first time, they simply buy buy again, as was the case when Google swallowed up DocVerse a couple of months back.
The re-branding of DocVerse as Google DocVerse, and the expected morphing of it into a new and improved Google Docs is just one example of Google making lemonade from lemons.
The $30 million acquisition of Gizmo5 along with it's softphone and VoIP routing via Google promises to bring an even greater plethora of widgeys and features to the Google Voice service, which was previously known as Grand Central (before they were effectively Googled).
Okay so we're witnessing a pattern here with Google's voracious appetite for VoIP and Video technologies, but what does the Open Sourcing of VP8 actually mean for HTML 5 and the web in general?
For starters, licensing body MPEG LA and Microsoft have dug in and are firmly invested in H.264, while Apple tags along with them.
Mozilla continues vowing never to bow down and embraces the more popular open source alternative, OGG Theora.
Opera wants to play nice in the sandbox, and has landed in the Ogg Theora camp, but the entire cadre, with the exception of Microsoft, is expected to Jump on board the VP8 bandwagon almost immediately.
Here's how the dichotomy of HTML5 video codec browser support is currently collated:
1.) H.264 - Chrome / IE9 / Safari
2.) Ogg Theora - Chrome / Firefox / Opera
Google, hedging its bets by supporting both H.264 and Ogg Theora, stands to lose absolutely nothing, and yet they are going to open source VP8 on top of everything - which On2 claims is capable of a, "50 percent bandwidth savings compared to leading H.264 implementations."
Considering the polarization of the various camps, Firefox stood to lose the most, with Opera playing catch up, while Safari and IE stick to their guns. At this late date in the game it appears that Apple is swinging around to VP8 too.
Microsoft succumbs in its own time, when it can say it is adopting a new technology not their own with a yawn, but don't think for a minute that it isn't hurting bad right now.
Adding insult to injury, Google is also going to launch Google TV this week at the conference, something that Intel CEO Paul Otellini claims is the, "biggest single change in television since it went color".
So if Google is buying their competitors underlying chat technology, launching Google TV, cranking up Android ads to a fevered pitch, open sourcing their VP8 video codec, offering free phone services and cloud based document management, what does this spell out?
How about a new way of thinking when it comes to "Democratization of the Internet"?
Imagine, Apple, Adobe, Microsoft, and others such as Skype, Yahoo, and AOL being handed their hats all at the same time, with regards to some major part of their business models.
Apple stands to suffer with the emergence of VoIP and Video technology they have to adopt instead of appearing to lead the market with respect to the prominence of the iPhone, while Android sales skyrocket as a result of a carefully planned blitz of new product offerings following Google's I/O developers conference.
Microsoft loses big in the area of IE and H.264, as does MPEG LA, while Firefox,having taken the biggest gamble that could have threatened it's very survival, gets a big payday by immediately embracing VP8.
YIM and AIM aren't going anywhere - at least not anytime soon, but Google is now poised to play on their turf, by owning the underlying technologies they use in their instant messengers - something akin to what we saw late last year when Skype pulled the rug out from under eBay.
Skype now has, potentially, a real competitor, but who knows? perhaps the Google gobbling machine has already placed them in the cross-hairs of the reticle too.
This isn't going to completely destroy any products that were mentioned so far, but Adobe does stand to see their champion, Flash, fade from existence in one of those, "Too little too late" scenarios.
In the short term, we're going to be seeing a revolution in video and telephony technologies tied closely to the Android and the web, via Firefox and Chrome. In the long term, we're witnessing over the next two days, a massive clash of the titans, and a restructuring of the power bases.
A year from now, we may very well all be surfing Google translated video television "Waves", while editing and exchanging documents during teleconferences over VoIP - on our Droids.
All in all, the next two days promise to be fundamentally more exciting for the rest of us average joes than it was for Microsoft when Marc Andreessen bowed down, and kissed the Borg ring of Bill Gates at the Netscape developers conference a decade ago.