Google to demo 4K YouTube streaming at CES via its new royalty-free VP9 codec


Google’s hasn’t enjoyed much success with VP8, a video codec it developed back in 2010 as a H.264 replacement for efficient video streaming. The Chrome browser supports VP8 codec out-of-the-box (so no plug-in required), but Google’s plans for VP8 domination were shattered by literally non-existent support from major industry players.

As a result, VP8 has never gained hardware-acceleration because chip makers opted to stand firmly behind H.264, an industry-standard video codec Apple’s devices support natively and on the silicon level.

At next week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the Internet giant will be showing off YouTube streaming in a 4K resolution of 3,840 pixels by 2,160 lines via its brand new royalty-free video codec, VP9.

This time around, Google has lined up an impressive list of industry players who will back the new format. Notably absent: a certain fruity company…

According to GigaOM, such industry players as ARM, Intel, Broadcom, Marvell, Nvidia, Samsung, Sony, Sharp and Toshiba have pledged to support the new Google codec. All told, nineteen industry heavy-weights will back VP9.

YouTube will demo 4K streaming next week at CES booths of LG, Panasonic and Sony.

It should be interesting seeing this initiative unfold itself given that Google is pitching royalty-free VP9 as an alternative to the emerging H.265 video codec. Both the existing H.264 and the upcoming H.265 require low royalty fees.

YouTube’s Francisco Varela noted that VP9 won’t provoke “war of the video codecs” and hinted YouTube could add support for H.265 in the future, alongside VP9.

Samsung 100 inch Ultra HD TV (CES 2013)

VP9 should help improve YouTube video delivery and reduce buffering, said Varela: “By 2015, you’ll be surprised every time you see that spinning wheel”. He expects VP9 hardware-assisted VP9 decoding to hit desktop and mobile devices first, with first VP9-enabled TV sets expected by 2015.

The existing H.264 codec is the de facto industry standard: most of your cable television, set-top boxes, digital devices and computers support H.264 on the silicon level, allowing for hardware-accelerated playback of H.264-encoded video.

All iTunes video content, for example, is encoded in H.264.

Apple supports H.264 via its QuickTime platform on both Macs and iOS devices. Both iOS and Mavericks feature hardware-accelerated H.264 video compression and decompression via GPU support.

The International telecommunications Union (ITU) a year ago approved H.265, also known as High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC). The successor to H.264, H.265 is meant to support resolutions up to 7,680-by-4,320 pixels, enough for the new Ultra HD 4K and 8K formats.

Amazon Instant Video 2.1 for iOS (iPhone screenshot 001)

H.265 – capable of delivering high-resolution video with half the bit rate of H.264 – is likely an important prerequisite for 4K iTunes movies. You’ll recall that Apple started dipping its toes into 4K waters with the release of the new Mac Pro.

Though there’s no concrete evidence of it, it’s safe to assume that Apple will bump up its 27-inch Thunderbolt Display, the iMac lineup and perhaps the Apple TV streaming-media box to 4K resolution later this year.

Several companies are expected to announce their 4K moves next week.

Netflix has already promised to announce hardware partners for a new 4K streaming and said that “several of the major TV vendors” would be debuting Netflix-compatible 4K sets.

LG hinted at new 55, 65 and 75-inch 4K curved TV sets with OLED screens. Heck, even Polaroid of all companies is jumping on the 4K bandwagon with an affordable $999 50-inch 4K TV set developed in conjunction with Empire Electronics.

And of course, there’s Samsung.

Image top of post via AppleInsider.