The YouTube Video Revolution

It was announced the other day that YouTube would begin serving H.264 video format on all their YouTube videos. This is an announcement that was made in conjunction with Apple regarding video formats for their Apple TV which uses Apple’s Quicktime format.

If you’re not familiar with H.264, it is a high definition video encoding protocol which allows for resolution scaling. It is the format used in Quicktime and video purchased on iTunes that allow HD crisp display on tiny iPod video screens and that allows for unpixelated resolution scaling on normal televisions.

It is the revolution of video but it’s not really new. It has become more known with the advent of iPod videos.

The plan is that all new videos will be encoded as H.264 starting sometime in the middle of June. There will be a significant quantity of YouTube content which will be available immediately for AppleTV users and new content will become available as YouTube users upload new content and as YouTube processes through their archives converting older content to the H.264 codec.

The big losers here are Microsoft and Adobe. Currently, all YouTube videos are played in a Flash video player (FLV). The move to a standardized codec means that proprietary solutions lose out. Adobe’s Flash? Gone. Microsoft’s Windows Media Player? Need to download a codec. Who wants to work for their videos?

H.264 can be played in most industry standard players. Quicktime, of course is the big one, making the deal a winner for Apple. AppleTV users are immediately benefited. iPhone users will benefit. Other players – VLC, MPlayer, and others.

From a business perspective, this deal continues to enhance the Google-Apple position that places the duo in stiff competition with Microsoft. The pair creates a highly distributed media network – Google with software and deliverables via the internet, and Apple with hardware multiplicity – iPod, Intel Macs, Apple TV, etc.

Meanwhile, Microsoft continues to promote their proprietary infrastructure cemented by Windows Media Center/Vista, the XBOX 360 and the Zune with restrictive access to non-Microsoft media distribution (no H.264/Mpeg-4 support built into Windows Media Player) . Incidentally, why does the Zune only integrate with a single OS media player while the iPod integrates with a cross-OS iTunes? Fascinating.