Due to ongoing patent abuse from Forgent and other companies, I’ve been on record recently predicting the demise of the JPEG format. Big companies like stability, and they don’t like having to worry about litigation that can come out of nowhere and ding their bottom line. That’s one reason I think Microsoft’s new image format has a better future than most people think.

But it turns out that JPEG is not quite dead yet. Out of the blue the ITU just announced announced an extension to this aging file format. ITU-T Recommendation T.851 adds a the royalty-free Q15 arithmetic coder to the standard, which will offer higer compression. At the same time the new recommendation ups the maximum color resolution to 16 bits, seen as a necessity for medical applications – and maybe taking a shot at increased use of RAW format by photographers.

Now we all know that swapping out the Huffman coder for an arithmetic rig is not going cause earth-shattering improvements. And more importantly, the world is crawling with JPEG decoders that aren’t currently supporting this extension. So while it is a nice idea, I have to offer up my prediction that this recommendation is going nowhere. It’s not going to be supported by your camera, your browser, or your iPod any time soon.

Maybe the highbrows in comp.compression will offer some enlightenment on this thread. Or not.