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View Full Version : Why do people still believe AAC is proprietary, but WMA isn't?


Zaty
Nov 12, 2004, 06:23 AM
In many iPod reviews, you read something like the iPod only supports Apple's proprietary AAC format but not WMA. This always sounds to me like WMA isn't proprietary. On the other hand, we all know that AAC is an open standard, only fairplay is proprietary. Are people just ignorant, or what is it that this misconception is still omnipresent?

musikman_ie
Nov 12, 2004, 06:50 AM
I think thats down to marketing and people not reading up on stuff anymore
also the fact that people knock WMA because its in media player for windows
If they knew its based on the same coding techniques as DTS they would realise the quality potential at higher bit rates

AmigoMac
Nov 12, 2004, 07:02 AM
Ignorant .... It's a matter of marketing, some people believe that you cannot play mp3 files on a mac. I know some of them. :mad:

Edit: Ignorant is the average customer... I wasn't talking to you ;)

munkle
Nov 12, 2004, 08:08 AM
When talking about proprietary formats, Apple's DRM AAC format from the iTunes Music Store can only be played on the iPod whereas other proprietary formats can be played on a larger range of players, therefore the fact it is proprietary isn't such a big deal.

Just playing devil's advocate ;)

sigamy
Nov 12, 2004, 08:18 AM
Consumers believe AAC is Apple proprietary because the "expert" tech writers are reporting it that way. If I had a nickel for every article that I've read that says "iPods only use Apple's proprietary AAC format" while XXX player uses "the industry standard and open WMA format".

Microsoft builds standards thru brute force majority of installations, not thru establishing the best, most open platform. By getting WMA on tons of devices and marketing the "Plays For Sure" campaign it automatically looks like WMA is an open standard.

jxyama
Nov 12, 2004, 10:27 AM
in this case, i think reporters are basiclly using words "proprietary" and "restricted" interchangeably.

right now, AAC from iTunes only plays on iPod. WMA plays on any mp3 player with WMA support. so even though AAC is "open" (fairplay, of course, is not), it's "restricted." WMA really is "proprietary" but since it's not really "restricted," the fact it isn't open is not a trouble for most consumers.

in stricter sense, gif format is also proprietary. but for most users, usage of gif is unrestricted, so it's not a big deal. (the program users uses for gif manipulation, of course, included the licensing fee...)

ignorant, yes. is there some kind of conspiracy to try to stick (unjustified) evil "proprietary" label on iTMS?, no.

BornAgainMac
Nov 12, 2004, 10:42 AM
I tried WMA a few years ago long before AAC existed. The reason was to use a lower bit rate compared to using MP3s to save space. When I bought a new PC and copied over the files, those files wouldn't work because Microsoft thought I was stealing music.

I like the fact that copy-protected AAC files from Apple will work on 5 PC's & Mac combos and I can deathorize a machine when it's old with a newer PC. So in my mind, AAC files are superior to WMA in both quality and less restrictions.

People that prefer WMA are either uneducated or short-sighted. If I wanted to use another MP3 player besides an iPod, I would only use MP3 files and rip music from CDs into MP3s. The only cost is that I'll be using up more disk space.

cluthz
Nov 12, 2004, 10:50 AM
in this case, i think reporters are basiclly using words "proprietary" and "restricted" interchangeably.

right now, AAC from iTunes only plays on iPod. WMA plays on any mp3 player with WMA support. so even though AAC is "open" (fairplay, of course, is not), it's "restricted." WMA really is "proprietary" but since it's not really "restricted," the fact it isn't open is not a trouble for most consumers.

in stricter sense, gif format is also proprietary. but for most users, usage of gif is unrestricted, so it's not a big deal. (the program users uses for gif manipulation, of course, included the licensing fee...)

ignorant, yes. is there some kind of conspiracy to try to stick (unjustified) evil "proprietary" label on iTMS?, no.


AAC is not "open" (or free..), there are several AAC standards and the compatibility isn't great..
WMA isn't better than AAC, but it plays on more players.
MP3 isn't free either, but many of the patenting and licensing issues that applies to AAC, makes mp3 a much more compatible format.
Ogg Vorbis is the open/free format, but many companies won't support it because its free...

The music/entertainment business is dirty and tries to restrict our user-rights! I don't want to buy music that i have to worry about if I can back it up or not! :mad:

jxyama
Nov 12, 2004, 11:06 AM
AAC is not "open" (or free..), there are several AAC standards and the compatibility isn't great..
WMA isn't better than AAC, but it plays on more players.
MP3 isn't free either, but many of the patenting and licensing issues that applies to AAC, makes mp3 a much more compatible format.
Ogg Vorbis is the open/free format, but many companies won't support it because its free...

let me rephrase. aac is an industry standard. it's the audio layer for mpeg4, which is an "open" (as opposed to "proprietary") industry standard - no one company/entity controls the specs. same for mp3. it's the audio layer for mpeg1/2. licensing/patenting is no more complicated for either. (and it's "open" because those specs are open to everyone... just like programs with source code made available are open.)

ogg vorbis is free and open, for sure, but it's a non player right now. there's not much economical reason for wide spread support because most users don't even know what ogg vorbis is.

James L
Nov 12, 2004, 11:22 AM
If companies have to apply to Apple to make use of their AAC format, and can be turned down, than that is not an open standard in my opinion.

Anyone can get linux. It can run on basically any platform. Anyone can get PHP. It is free. It doesn't cost anything, and can be installed on basically any platform.

These are free, AAC under Apple's system is not, therefore it is not truely an open format. Apple protects it in the same way that M$ protects WMA... which isn't even really true as you can listen to WMA on your Mac.

Quality of recording isn't the issue here, it is whether or not Apple's AAC is open and unfortunately, due to DRM, it is not imho.

I have been a Mac user since 1986, but I am not an Apple apologist. To say their AAC is a true, open format is misleading.

jxyama
Nov 12, 2004, 11:29 AM
If companies have to apply to Apple to make use of their AAC format, and can be turned down, than that is not an open standard in my opinion.

Anyone can get linux. It can run on basically any platform. Anyone can get PHP. It is free. It doesn't cost anything, and can be installed on basically any platform.

These are free, AAC under Apple's system is not, therefore it is not truely an open format. Apple protects it in the same way that M$ protects WMA... which isn't even really true as you can listen to WMA on your Mac.

Quality of recording isn't the issue here, it is whether or not Apple's AAC is open and unfortunately, due to DRM, it is not imho.

I have been a Mac user since 1986, but I am not an Apple apologist. To say their AAC is a true, open format is misleading.

AAC is not an apple format, it's part of the mpeg.

AAC is a true open format - anyone and everyone has access to the codec and specs and no one entity controls them. (and the fact there are fees associated with it has nothing to do with "open-ness." "open" does not mean "free, as in free beer.")

i don't fault the journalists for thinking iTMS AAC (which is actually AAC+fairplay, with fairplay being apple proprietary) is overall apple's proprietary format. but here on MR, i think we need to understand better. when you say "AAC," it doesn't include fairplay DRM. that's why CDs i rip in AAC using iTunes is 100% portable. AAC itself is not an apple proprietary thing. fairplay is.

munkle
Nov 12, 2004, 11:33 AM
If companies have to apply to Apple to make use of their AAC format, and can be turned down, than that is not an open standard in my opinion.


You're confusing AAC with AAC+Apple's FairPlay, which is not, or does it claim to be an open standard. You do not have to 'apply' to Apple to make use of the AAC format.

Edit: beaten to it by a much better post from jxyama :p

aricher
Nov 12, 2004, 12:39 PM
It's very simple - the majority of people are stupid.

dubbz
Nov 12, 2004, 12:42 PM
ogg vorbis is free and open, for sure, but it's a non player right now. there's not much economical reason for wide spread support because most users don't even know what ogg vorbis is.

Most users doesn't know what WMA or AAC is either.

While I wish Ogg Vorbis whould gain some more acceptance, I don't have high hopes (even though there's an increasing number of portable players that support it). Maybe it'll have a future in the world of computer games, since a reasonable number of developers seems to have taken a liking to it.

I might not use it, but when it comes to WMA vs AAC, I certainly hope AAC comes out as the winner. It's an open and, with a good encoder (hey, there's actually a choice, unlike WMA!), better sounding format.... But my fear is that Microsoft will have the advantage thanks to the WinXP bundled WMP (which I believe encode to WMA by default) and the overwhelming number of portable players that support WMA.

jxyama
Nov 12, 2004, 12:52 PM
Most users doesn't know what WMA or AAC is either.

very true. to most people, they are all "mp3."

cluthz
Nov 12, 2004, 01:47 PM
....
AAC is a true open format - anyone and everyone has access to the codec and specs and no one entity controls them. (and the fact there are fees associated with it has nothing to do with "open-ness." "open" does not mean "free, as in free beer.")
......

Free software IS NOT the same as in free beer:
* The freedom to run the program, for any purpose
* The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs
* The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor
* The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements to the public, so that the whole community benefits

Here are the MPEG4-ACC license faq.
http://www.vialicensing.com/products/mpeg4aac/licenseFAQ.html

If a format is open when you can get it for a fee, then nearly all music formats are open..

Here are another "open" formats licence.. http://wmlicense.smdisp.net/licenserequest/

atomiton
Nov 12, 2004, 02:06 PM
Off-topic

Are there any systems (home systems, portable (except ipod, car systems) which play AAC files?

I don't know of any. However, I know that some play WMA, and the standard is still MP3. Considering it's a ratified standard, the only thing I know is it's now used by the latest Video Conferencing hardware

Sony uses it for the audio channel, 128kbps Stero and Tandberg uses a flavor of it, using 30ms Low delay version (AAC-LD).

Incidentally, they're all using the H.264 codec.

Please don't suggest I buy an ipod. I really don't have much of a need for portable music right now.

I think once you see support for AAC in home systems, like you see with WMA and MP3, then you'll get the misconceptions cleared... not before.

jxyama
Nov 12, 2004, 02:39 PM
If a format is open when you can get it for a fee

i never said that - i never said being able to pay a fee to obtain the license is the definition of open. i said aac is open because specs are available to anyone and no one entitiy dictates whether or not you can obtain the codec/specs.

WMA is not open because MS does not tell you the specs and they can deny you the codec even if you are willing to pay a fee.

the "free" software characteristics you listed above are some variants of "openness" (ex. GPL) GPL isn't the only way things can be "open." more specifically, the ability to modify/improve the code is not the definition of "open."

sigamy
Nov 12, 2004, 02:45 PM
i don't fault the journalists for thinking iTMS AAC (which is actually AAC+fairplay, with fairplay being apple proprietary) is overall apple's proprietary format.

I couldn't disagree more. Journalists need to get the facts right and then report those facts. In this age of web journalism fact-checking is reduced to a cut and paste from other site/article. Hey, it must be correct if its on www.whatever.com...

AAC vs AAC+fairplay is not that complex of an issue. You just explained it in one sentence.

Right now no one but geeks cares about these issues. John and Jane Consumer won't care until they have to re-purchase music because their old Online music store went under or their "proprietary" music player no longer works.

Loge
Nov 12, 2004, 03:43 PM
Off-topic

Are there any systems (home systems, portable (except ipod, car systems) which play AAC files?

Many cellphones play AAC files, recent Sony-Ericsson and Nokia models for example (you may have to change the file extension from m4a to mp4).

James L
Nov 12, 2004, 09:17 PM
AAC is not an apple format, it's part of the mpeg.

AAC is a true open format - anyone and everyone has access to the codec and specs and no one entity controls them. (and the fact there are fees associated with it has nothing to do with "open-ness." "open" does not mean "free, as in free beer.")

i don't fault the journalists for thinking iTMS AAC (which is actually AAC+fairplay, with fairplay being apple proprietary) is overall apple's proprietary format. but here on MR, i think we need to understand better. when you say "AAC," it doesn't include fairplay DRM. that's why CDs i rip in AAC using iTunes is 100% portable. AAC itself is not an apple proprietary thing. fairplay is.


I am well aware of that, but the original poster asked the question in the context of the iPod. To the end user AAC+ fairplay, or just AAC, is the same thing. The end result is that Apple is restricting the use of the iPod and what can go on it, and not allowing others in. You and I can get as technical as we want, but the net result is the same... Apple is making it proprietary.

I am not saying this is a bad thing, but let's not acuse M$ of doing something without acknowledging that Apple does the same.

Cheers,

James

superbovine
Nov 12, 2004, 10:09 PM
In many iPod reviews, you read something like the iPod only supports Apple's proprietary AAC format but not WMA. This always sounds to me like WMA isn't proprietary. On the other hand, we all know that AAC is an open standard, only fairplay is proprietary. Are people just ignorant, or what is it that this misconception is still omnipresent?

atually ipod (older ones least) have the hardware support for WMA, just that apple chooses not to use that feature of the ipod hardware.

MisterMe
Nov 12, 2004, 10:18 PM
I am well aware of that, but the original poster asked the question in the context of the iPod. To the end user AAC+ fairplay, or just AAC, is the same thing. The end result is that Apple is restricting the use of the iPod and what can go on it, and not allowing others in. You and I can get as technical as we want, but the net result is the same... Apple is making it proprietary.

I am not saying this is a bad thing, but let's not acuse M$ of doing something without acknowledging that Apple does the same.

Cheers,

JamesYou seem to be laboring under the misconception that the music sold by the iTMS is Apple's music. It is not. Apple is only the retailer. Without the security afforded by FairPlay, Apple would not be allowed to sell the music. How soon people forget that the record labels were originally very cool to the iPod because they regarded it as an instrument of music piracy.

As to your point that the iPod is proprietary, it most certainly is not. You can play virtually every song ever recorded on the iPod. All you have to do is to buy the song, RIP it in iTunes your choice of audio formats including AAC, and you are done. You may also share your digital music with your friends and family, though that may be illegal. The iPod can play music in three formats, MP3, AAC, and Apple Lossless. AAC, the format that seems so controversal, is not an Apple format. It is the standard audio format of MPEG-4 and was developed by Dolby Laboratories, not Apple. You can play unencrypted AAC files from anywhere on your iPod. The fact that you can't find other portable digital music players that support AAC is not the fault of Apple. If other companies saw a market for an AAC-compatible player, you can be assured that someone would build it.

aafuss1
Nov 13, 2004, 06:49 AM
I'm suprised why Apple hasn't decided to include Ogg Vorbis support in iPod's or iTunes-it's an open source format?

dubbz
Nov 13, 2004, 09:55 AM
I'm suprised why Apple hasn't decided to include Ogg Vorbis support in iPod's or iTunes-it's an open source format?

For iTunes: Maybe because the iPod don't support it? They seem to limit themselves to formats that the iPod can understand. Adding Vorbis support whould add confusion since someone who tries to transfer the song to the iPod whould be unable to play it. (Of course, there exist 3rd party Vorbis support for iTunes, so all is not lost).

For iPod: Who knows? I've read conflicting reports of whether the iPod chip have the power, or not, to decode Vorbis. It could be a reason. Price can't be the reason, since Vorbis is free. It could be memory constrains, since adding Vorbis support whould take some space (I vote for removing the games. If you want games, get a Gameboy *flamebait*). Lack of demand could also be one reason.

jxyama
Nov 13, 2004, 10:17 AM
I am well aware of that, but the original poster asked the question in the context of the iPod. To the end user AAC+ fairplay, or just AAC, is the same thing. The end result is that Apple is restricting the use of the iPod and what can go on it, and not allowing others in. You and I can get as technical as we want, but the net result is the same... Apple is making it proprietary.

I am not saying this is a bad thing, but let's not acuse M$ of doing something without acknowledging that Apple does the same.

Cheers,

James

did you even read what i wrote? i said i don't fault the journalists (thus the average consumers reading it) for confusing AAC vs. AAC+fairplay. i got into technical stuff because i thought people here at MR could probably stomach and comprehend the whole issue better - and i even said that right in the quote of my post you mentioned.

jxyama
Nov 13, 2004, 10:23 AM
I'm suprised why Apple hasn't decided to include Ogg Vorbis support in iPod's or iTunes-it's an open source format?

why? what's apple's incentive? i think it's like asking iPod Photo to support raw format... it's such a minor format that the effort to include it is not worth the payoff. (yeah, i know ogg vorbis is superior compared to other formats, yada yada yada... that's not my point.)

however, iPod Photo does support .png, yet minor, open but superior (to gif) format... so maybe... it really could be that iPod HW can't handle the codec?

MisterMe
Nov 13, 2004, 10:59 AM
why? what's apple's incentive? i think it's like asking iPod Photo to support raw format... it's such a minor format that the effort to include it is not worth the payoff. (yeah, i know ogg vorbis is superior compared to other formats, yada yada yada... that's not my point.)

however, iPod Photo does support .png, yet minor, open but superior (to gif) format... so maybe... it really could be that iPod HW can't handle the codec?You're kidding, right? If you're serious, what computational requirements does Ogg Vorbis place on a processor that makes it so much more difficult to decode than other digital audio formats? Come on, the only reason that the iPod does not support Ogg Vorbis is that Apple did not program it to so so. I can think of two reasons that Apple does not support Ogg Vorbis on the iPod. One is that it simply is not necessary. The iPod is a relatively transparent portable consumer appliance that allows people to play their music or other audio content. It is not a technology platform intended to showcase every conceivable audio format. The second reason is that Ogg Vorbis is an opensource, mixed-license format. I really don't think that Apple wants to get involved in the tangled knot of distributing software partially under a BSD-like license and partially under a LGPL license

Counterfit
Nov 13, 2004, 11:57 AM
I really don't think that Apple wants to get involved in the tangled knot of distributing software partially under a BSD-like license and partially under a LGPL license Check out this list (http://www.apple.com/opensource/). :D

jxyama
Nov 13, 2004, 11:57 AM
You're kidding, right? If you're serious, what computational requirements does Ogg Vorbis place on a processor that makes it so much more difficult to decode than other digital audio formats?

i really don't know - hence i'm not "kidding." i've read other people's opinions on how vorbis may be more complex, i have no idea. would you care to research to see if there are reports indicating how vorbis codec is no more complicated than the mp3's?

in any case, i'm not all that interested myself. it's just that it gets a bit annoying to hear about vorbis all the time like a broken record.

Zaty
Nov 13, 2004, 02:01 PM
The reason why I started this thread is I fear that all those statements about the iPod not supporting the "industry standard" WMA might hurt iPod sales. Don't forget, a fair share of iPods have been sold to Windows users who get WMP through Windows update. Although you can convert unprotected WMA files to AAC (probably with a loss in quality?), once they start buying songs from MSN Music or any other service using WMA, there is no possibility to load those songs onto an iPod except for burning them to a CD and importing them into iTunes. Secondly, I do think reporters should check their facts. AAC itself is not proprietary. There has be quite a discussion in this thread on whether "proprietary" is a good or bad thing. To me it always has slightly negative touch because "proprietary" usually means no or limited choice. It's true, Apple doesn't really offer a choice, but I believe they have a good reason, offering a closed system that just works and especially one that doesn't make users fiddling around with certificates like the ones WMP uses. That's a point that IMHO should get more credit in all those reviews.

JordanNZ
Nov 13, 2004, 03:12 PM
Vorbis does use a LOT more cpu power to decode than the other formats.. Although I doubt this would have anything to do with the ipod not supporting it.

daveL
Nov 13, 2004, 04:18 PM
Vorbis does use a LOT more cpu power to decode than the other formats.. Although I doubt this would have anything to do with the ipod not supporting it.
Well, it would certainly impact the battery life of any player that supported it. My understanding of Vorbis, and I may be off base, it that it is very similar to AAC, but, obviously, without the licensing issues.

Mechcozmo
Nov 13, 2004, 05:40 PM
I have installed the iTunes Ogg Vorbis Plug in, and there is a difference in cpu usage. About 4% more, but to an iPod that might be a lot...

This one is an AAC file:
http://forums.macrumors.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=18813&stc=1

Anthony's Song-- Moving Out, for those of you who want to criticize my listening habits...

This one is an Ogg Voribs file:
http://forums.macrumors.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=18815&stc=1

Octorock, a remix on some Link 2 music. Never played that game but the music is pretty neat.


Those are not taken at peaks or valleys, instead I waited until the file had been playing for a little bit and then took the picture. I also took ~3 screen shots for each and took the most average one. So now we know that Ogg Vorbis does use more CPU power than AAC.

BTW, my computer is a 1.33 Ghz Rev. C PowerBook G4, 768MB of RAM, and an 80GB 5200rpm internal drive.

JordanNZ
Nov 13, 2004, 07:05 PM
If it uses 4% more of a G4 at that clockspeed.. It will tax the iPod.

The 3rd Gen ipods have trouble playing back high bitrate mp3s.. So Vorbis could be a problem. Were the bitrates of the two files similar?

Mechcozmo
Nov 13, 2004, 07:10 PM
Were the bitrates of the two files similar?

Yeah. Both were 128 kbps audio files. Any other questions, anyone?