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A question for anybody who has an answer - Journal of Omnifarious

Mar. 28th, 2006

08:56 am - A question for anybody who has an answer

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Does anybody know why iTunes does not support Ogg right out of the box? What earthly reason does Apple have for not just bundling it? It's not like it'd be at all hard or expensive.

All of my music is in ogg because it is a patent free format, and a better format than mp3 (and on par with AAC). But half the world seems to use iTunes now.

Lastly, if an iPod can play video, it should have enough juice to decode an ogg file. There are ogg decoders out there designed to run in CPU-limited environments.

For those who don't know what an ogg is:

Ogg is a media format like AVI, WMV, or Quicktime. It can hold all kinds of media. Audio, video, whatever. But, of course, I use it for audio when I encode CDs to it.

The Vorbis codec for Ogg is the standard Ogg audio format. There are other ogg audio formats. For example, FLAC is a lossless compression codec for Ogg, and Speex is a lossy compression codec designed for voice and voice communications. But Vorbis is the main one people think of.

Vorbis is a lossy format like mp3. But if you take a given song and encode it to a 3 megabyte file, the ogg file is going to sound a lot better than the mp3 file.

Additionally, the mp3 format is covered by patents. People who make mp3 encoders have to pay someone money to distribute them. Ogg Vorbis (and all the Ogg audio and video codecs) are not covered by any patents, and have free (as in speech) implementations.

Current Mood: [mood icon] annoyed

Comments:

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From:sfllaw
Date:March 28th, 2006 05:19 pm (UTC)
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You might be interested in Rockbox.

From what I understand, Apple is uninterested in patent-free formats. This seems to be a business decision, not a technical one.
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From:pphaneuf
Date:March 28th, 2006 07:22 pm (UTC)
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DRM-free formats, to be accurate. I think they'd rather not pay Yamaha licenses fees, but they'd rather do that than not have DRM.
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From:omnifarious
Date:March 29th, 2006 05:30 am (UTC)
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That looks pretty interesting. I'm going to have to tell more people about that.

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From:mysticalforest
Date:March 28th, 2006 06:41 pm (UTC)
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First, what in the world is ogg?

Second, It's not like it'd be at all hard or expensive. Keyword: Expensive.
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From:pphaneuf
Date:March 28th, 2006 07:21 pm (UTC)
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The latest generation of iPods have a DSP chip that supports both MP3 and Ogg Vorbis decoding in hardware. This is a pure exercise in software, with zero cost per unit, but they already hate MP3 for being free from DRM, they pretty much are forced by the market to support it and wouldn't if they could get away with it.

Ogg Vorbis is like super-MP3, specifically designed to be DRM- and patent-free, and it has insignificant market force. Meaning the chances of it ever being widely supported is equally insignificant.
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From:omnifarious
Date:March 28th, 2006 08:13 pm (UTC)

Re: What's an ogg

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If you read the other replies to this post, you'll get a picture of what's going on. It isn't expensive to support actually. In fact, it's so inexpensive as to be practically free. OK, it would cost them at most about $20000 of developer time, but compare to what other money they're spending on the iPod, even for developer time, that's a drop in the bucket.

No the real reason is very likely related to DRM.

ogg is a media format like AVI, WMV, or Quicktime. It can hold all kinds of media. Audio, video, whatever. But, of course, I use it for audio when I encode CDs to it.

The Vorbis codec for Ogg is the standard Ogg audio format. There are other ogg audio formats. For example, FLAC is a lossless compression codec for Ogg, and Speex is a lossy compression codec designed for voice and voice communications. But Vorbis is the main one people think of.

Vorbis is a lossy format like mp3. But if you take a given song and encode it to a 3 megabyte file, the ogg file is going to sound a lot better than the mp3 file.

Additionally, the mp3 format is covered by patents. People who make mp3 encoders have to pay someone money to distribute them. Ogg Vorbis (and all the Ogg audio and video codecs) are not covered by any patents, and have free (as in speech) implementations.

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From:pphaneuf
Date:March 28th, 2006 07:17 pm (UTC)
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See this post. The outlook is rather bleak.
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From:omnifarious
Date:March 29th, 2006 05:31 am (UTC)
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Yeah, that lays out the situation in fairly clear terms. That's very sad. :-(

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From:pphaneuf
Date:March 28th, 2006 07:26 pm (UTC)
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Also, there is a Quicktime codec for Ogg Vorbis, that iTunes can use through it's half-hearted Quicktime support. Make sure you upgrade to the latest iTunes, to lessen (but not eliminate!) frustrations.
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From:akashayi
Date:March 28th, 2006 09:41 pm (UTC)
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wow, I'm afraid to even get started on incompatabilities good lossless files have.

I think Apple wants everyone to use .m4a, though.
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From:omnifarious
Date:March 29th, 2006 05:48 am (UTC)
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The incompatibilities the good lossless files have? :-) Please, get started, don't be afraid.

Yes, I have no doubt that Apple would like everybody to use a format they control that has DRM built in. :-( I'm really sad they're letting this political/business consideration override serving their users well.

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From:klicrai
Date:March 29th, 2006 07:58 am (UTC)

Small confusion

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Okay, this is going to make me sound like I'm utterly ignorant about technology (which I am) but... what is DRM?
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From:scottscidmore
Date:March 29th, 2006 08:53 am (UTC)

Re: Small confusion

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Digital rights management, more or less 'copy protection'

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_Rights_Management
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From:(Anonymous)
Date:April 3rd, 2006 06:09 am (UTC)

Maybe not as evil as you think...

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I think Apple's philosophy is simply that more features = more bugs. If they added OGG support to iTunes and the iPod, they'd then have yet another thing they have to maintain, with more bugs to fix.

I think one of the reasons Apple has been so successful in creating software and platforms that "just work" is because they heavily restrict the variables that they have to deal with. For example, most of the stability problems that (supposedly) plague Windows can be traced back to the drivers, and with thousands of different devices available in an exponentially large space of combinations and configurations, it is completely impossible for Microsoft to keep such problems under control.

Meanwhile, Apple has a very restricted set of hardware configurations that they need to support. As a result, the very concept of a "driver" is unknown to the Mac user: Apple can take care of everything directly.

So, same deal with OGG. They don't support OGG because it would be another variable. More variables leads to less reliability and more issues for the user to deal with.

Now, I'm not saying that Apple's philosophy is the best. But, I do believe it is what makes them who they are. If Apple wasn't so strict about limiting their variables, I don't think their software would have the same level of simplicity, consistency, or reliability that many users love so much.
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From:(Anonymous)
Date:April 3rd, 2006 06:10 am (UTC)

Re: Maybe not as evil as you think...

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Err, this is Kenton, BTW.
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From:omnifarious
Date:April 3rd, 2006 06:22 pm (UTC)

Re: Maybe not as evil as you think...

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You need an LJ. :-) Or at least, an OpenID. :-)

That's an interesting theory. That's a plausible idea. You're definitely right about hardware. I think there may be documentation to back up the "We don't like ogg because it doesn't have DRM." idea, but I'm not sure.

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