Microsoft Corp. yesterday announced a new file format for digital photography that promises higher image quality and greater data preservation than current software standards such as JPEG. Introduced at the Photo Marketing Association Convention in Las Vegas, the new HD Photo technology offers, according to the company, compression with up to twice the efficiency of JPEG, which should produce greater image fidelity.

All digital imaging standards are based on algorithms that compress and decompress the data in a scanned or photographed image so that it can be easily stored and re-created within an application such as a browser or a photo-editing toolkit. Microsoft said that HD Photo (previously known as Windows Media Photo) offers users the ability to decode only the information needed for any resolution or region, as well as the option to manipulate the image as compressed data.

"With HD Photo, we're taking a new approach to creating and editing photos that simply isn't available to photographers with today's formats," said Amir Majidimehr, corporate vice president of the Consumer Media Technology Group in Redmond. "HD Photo fully preserves the original image fidelity with high dynamic range while still allowing for significant improvement in compression size."

The software giant noted that HD Photo will run on "popular platforms" such as Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Mac OS X, and that it supports industry-standard metadata formats. Microsoft said it will submit the new format to an "appropriate standards organization" in the near future.

It will be interesting to see what the software industry makes of the new competitor to the venerable JPEG standard (which has been the format of choice for over a decade). Conventional wisdom holds that when it comes to software the most advanced offering is not always the winner in the marketplace of end users—a fact that the software marketers in Redmond must be keenly aware of.


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