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Tuesday, November 05, 2013

VP8 acceleration hits the mobile phone in time for IETF88

Following on from Cisco's open-sourcing pitch for promoting H.264 in the big WebRTC codec debate, it's now Google's turn to turn up the dial on VP8. [My take on Cisco's move is here]

One of the biggest stumbling-blocks cited for VP8 so far has been the lack of any mobile optimisations - specifically hardware acceleration in smartphones or tablets, necessary to avoid battery-sapping processing for VP8 video done in software.

But with what surely cannot be coincidental timing, Google has announced that its new LG-made Nexus 5 phone comes with - drum roll - hardware encoding/decoding for VP8.

According to this chart, it's a native feature of the chipset in the Nexus 5, which is based around a spanking-new 2.3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 as a CPU, and Adreno 330 GPU. This marks the first time that Qualcomm has appeared as clear enabler of WebRTC & VP8, as far as I'm aware.

The chart also points out that as well as the Snapdragon 800, there are also VP8-supporting chips that do encoding & decoding from nVidia, ST-Ericsson and Rockchip. But given its share of high-end phone chips, I've long believed that Qualcomm is something of a potential "kingmaker" when it comes to codecs and, ultimately, the ways in which WebRTC will manifest on mobile. If this is what it seems, then it is highly significant.


Other phones/tablets announced with the 800 include:
- Samsung W2014 dual-screen flip phone
- Samsung Note 12.2 tablet
- Samsung Galaxy S4 LTE+
- Sony Experia Z1S
- Asus Padfone Infinity

Overall, it looks like the usual mantra of "phones only support H.264" is now obsolete - especially as Apple is pretty stingy with providing access to its video acceleration APIs anyway.

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