Will Microsoft Lync (Skype for Work) switch tracks and go to H.264AVC?

Within a year or two, all modern browsers will be able to natively do HD Videoconferencing. No need to download Skype anymore.

As I mentioned in the previous blog post, H.264AVC was chosen to be one of two mandated codecs (VP8 is the other) for browsers to support in order to be “WebRTC compliant”.

Generally the conversation in WebRTC has been focused on the term H.264, but as the details here confirm, its specifically H.264AVC:

The codec goes under the names H.264, AVC and MPEG-4 Part10.

Microsoft has started moving Skype to the Web, and is working towards WebRTC in their own Internet Explorer browser. Once again, they state:

As part of this effort we are committed to innovate and offer better codecs as the
technology matures. Our choices here are driven to benefit the broadest set of
users - e.g. the primary video codec that is deployed both in communications endpoints
and supported in hardware today is ITU-T H.264, which will be the supported video
codec. For voice, we will offer codecs like Opus, G.722, and G.711 to enable the
greatest experience for a broad variety of endpoints.

In ITU-T, H.264 is defined as H.264 Advanced Video coding – the same H.264 AVC.

So all modern browsers will run H.264AVC (including Internet Explorer). Skype runs H.264AVC. Most video devices and room systems run H.264AVC. DVDs and BluRay include H.264AVC… iOS uses H.264AVC… the list goes on.

Lync however, uses H.264SVC, an implementation based on H.264 that is not directly interoperable.

Cisco is asked all the time if we they can make their equipment do Video interoperability with Lync because of this. As it stands, Lync may not even talk to Internet Explorer’s planned WebRTC implementation.

In the face of the-rest-of-the-world going with H.264AVC, and Cisco offering to pay the tab for everyone,  will Microsoft switch to join everyone else? Lync would just work with everyone else.

Will they stick to SVC and require gateways to speak to the rest of the world… or will they “pull a Microsoft” and only support Lync interop if you run Internet Explorer?

With Satya Nadella around, and Gurdeep Singh Pall (the head of Lync) working at the Skype offices in London and not in Lync’s home in Redmond, I am hopeful we’re about to have a global standard on Video interoperability.


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