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Microsoft reinfects Chrome with closed video codec

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Microsoft has reinfected Google's Chrome browser with the patent-encumbered H.264 video codec, banned by the search giant last month.

On Wednesday, the world's largest software company released a plug-in for Chrome that allows Windows 7 PCs to play video using the proprietary format that's part-owned by Microsoft and Apple – you can grab it here. The plug-in is designed to let users running Chrome on a Windows 7 machine – but not on a Windows XP box – play HTML5 video using the H.264 codec.

Microsoft said on Wednesday that it has built the Windows Media Player HTML5 Extension for Chrome because it respects the fact that "Windows customers want the best experience of the web including the ability to enjoy the widest range of content available on the Internet in H.264 format."

H.264 is the mostly widely used video-playback codec on the web, but Google said in January that it was removing support for H.264 from future versions of Chrome.

Google said its resources would now be directed towards "completely open codec technologies," as the giant's goal is to enable "open innovation" on the internet. H.264 was built by Apple, Microsoft, and others, and is licensed by MPEG LA.

Future versions of Chrome will support only the royalty-free WebM codec that was owned and open sourced by Google last year, and the Ogg Theora codec.

Chrome would join Opera and Firefox in not including H.264. Chrome will continue to include Adobe's Flash player, however, which uses the H.264 codec; Google's decision only affects HTML5 video.

Announcing its H.264 shot for Chrome, Microsoft said: "We believe that Windows customers should be able to play mainstream HTML5." H.264 will ship as the video playback of choice for the next version of Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser later this year.

Wednesday's announcement is the latest incident of handbags at 50 paces between Google and Microsoft. Google in January said it was planning WebM plug-ins for the H.264-luvvin' IE and Safari from Apple. This Tuesday, the two went all Joan Collins over how Microsoft's Bing is ripping off Google's search results. ®

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