Microsoft recently released the beta version of its AV1 Video Extension for Windows 10. It is a software decoder that is designed to enable the playback of videos encoded using the new AV1 video coding standard.
The codec that Microsoft released is one of a number of AV1 decoders that have been made available in the last few months. Not too long ago Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox both added support for AV1 videos, and other browsers have started to follow suit.
Microsoft’s AV1 codec being released is significant as it provides the option for a wide range of devices running on Windows 10 to play AV1 videos. Due to the fact that it is still in beta, it is an optional download, but it is likely to eventually be rolled into one of the Windows 10 updates in the future.
In the description for the video extension, Microsoft notes that it is an early release and users who download it may face performance issues. However, it also notes that it is continuing to improve on it, and the extension will be updated automatically if the user’s settings allow for it.
It is no surprise that Microsoft is one of the early adopters of AV1 as they are one of the founding members of the Alliance for Open Media (AOMedia) consortium that developed the video coding standard. Other founding members include Google, Netflix, Amazon, Cisco, Intel, and Mozilla.
Since then the AOMedia consortium has expanded its membership to include AMD, ARM, Nvidia, and Adobe as well as new governing members in the form of Apple and Facebook. The AV1 video codec is its first project, with the goal of creating an open and royalty-free video format that can replace the current AVC/H.264 codec and its successor HEVC (H.265).
The speed of AV1’s adoption has been swift and in line with the roadmap outlined by the AOMedia consortium. The availability of software decoders and encoders is a key component in that rollout, and the next focus will be on hardware support for encoding and decoding.
Although it is seen as a strong contender to HEVC and a viable replacement for AVC/H.264, the AV1 format will have to overcome several hurdles before it becomes more mainstream. As per Microsoft’s note in its video extension, performance issues still exist in its decoder – and the same can be said of other decoders as well that are in beta.
It will be some time until widespread support for AV1 is available on most devices, and hardware support is only expected to start to be featured in new devices in early 2020. However the software decoders and encoders that have been released make it possible to convert AV1 videos, and for example, you can use Movavi Video Converter (http://www.movavi.com/videoconverter/) to do that.
Aside from that AV1 may face legal challenges in the near future that could affect its royalty-free status. That could affect its viability and make it less feasible for many platforms.