Scalable Video Coding at its best is on its way to WebRTC courtesy of Vidyo, who stands to gain… ?
Scalable Video Coding (SVC), for those that are new to the term, is a way to take a single video stream, split it into layers and have the layers provide value one on top of the other. That value could be better error resiliency, better frame rate, higher video quality or higher resolution. What is it good for? Two things mainly:
- Error resiliency – the video looks better even in network hiccups
- Reduce load on the MCU – if you are planning to add multipoint video, then SVC makes the backend servers work less and provide better results (usually)
SVC was the reason Vidyo, a company that start from video conferencing veterans, existed in the first place – it went on a quest to kill the hardware MCU. While other video conferencing vendors have been gearing up their solutions towards SVC, I don’t think that any one of them reached the level of commitment, embedding and technology that Vidyo has. This is probably why Google opted for Vidyo’s H.264/SVC codec for their Google Talk and later Hangouts services.
Yesterday, Vidyo announced support of WebRTC. As stated in the press release:
Vidyo will develop a scalable video extension for the VP9 codec as part of the WebRTC client open source project.[…]
Vidyo and Google will promote this version with relevant standards bodies.[…]
Vidyo and Google plan to develop additional capabilities to further optimize the Hangouts experience for enterprise users.
Things to note from the announcement:
- This is about VP9 and not VP8. Google is planning to shift WebRTC to VP9 and probably sooner than later. The “present” to the market and the pressure over the mandatory video codec selection is going to be the addition of SVC technology as part of the package – a sweet deal considering the fact that SVC is still far from being commoditized
- The IP that Vidyo is contributing here is substantial, but relates only to the client side of the WebRTC story. A lot of the smarts of SVC resides in the backend, where WebRTC is lacking in existing infrastructure. SVC adds complexity there
- This requires additional standardization effort. VP9, which is Google controlled in a way, but more so WebRTC itself, where additional signaling is required to get a reign over the capabilities SVC brings to the table
Why Would Vidyo do such a thing?
That’s the main question. The answers are varied, with the best one being that they didn’t really have a choice. Vidyo is the youngest video conferencing company – the one that has the most to lose. It raised almost $100M, with the latest round of $17M just 4 months ago. It raises the question – can such an opening of their technology make them a billion dollar company.
On the other hand, ignoring WebRTC means a reduction in the size of the market they are targeting by upstarts – just as TNW went for LiveNinja’s platform and not Vidyo’s.
By pushing their tech into WebRTC on the client side, Vidyo gets a head-start in SVC support for WebRTC and with being able to introduce their VidyoRouter and other products with native WebRTC support faster than anyone else to the market. It probably has a few patents on the server side processing up its sleeves and will be willing to protect them.
This is probably the best move they had with WebRTC. Question is – will it be enough.