Microsoft Releases Beta AV1 Video Codec for Windows 10 - Dispatch Weekly

November 27, 2018 - Reading time: 4 minutes

Microsoft has released the AV1 Video Extension (Beta) on the Microsoft Store. It was added quietly, and will effectively allow Windows 10 devices that install it to decode and watch videos that use the AV1 codec.

Based on initial reports, the video codec works for streaming videos on Microsoft Edge as well as other Windows 10 apps. However, as mentioned on the Microsoft Store’s notes, the video extension is an early beta and so there may be some performance issues when playing AV1 videos initially – especially seeing as current devices do not have hardware support for it.

Microsoft’s move to add AV1 decoding capabilities to Windows 10 and its Edge browser is not entirely unexpected seeing as it’s a member of the Alliance for Open Media (AOMedia) consortium that developed and released AV1 in the first place. Still, it does reinforce the rapid pace at which AV1 is being rolled out across various platforms.

Prior to Microsoft releasing its video extension, Google and Mozilla added AV1 support to the beta versions of their Chrome and Firefox browsers respectively. Google has also been conducting a test on AV1’s performance on YouTube videos, and Netflix is running a test of their own on the codec.

It should be noted that Google, Mozilla and Netflix are all members of the AOMedia consortium alongside Microsoft. Other notable members in the consortium include Apple, Intel, Facebook, Amazon, IBM, ARM, Nvidia, and more.

The AV1 video codec was specifically developed by AOMedia for the internet-era of video streaming, and is designed to cope with the demand for higher quality videos in 4K resolutions or greater. It is designed to not only supplant the current H.264 codec, but also its successor the HEVC (H.265) codec.

As an open and royalty free codec, the AV1 is not hindered by the complex licensing structure of the H.265. Furthermore it is able to compress videos far more efficiently, reducing the file size of H.265 videos by 25% to 35% without affecting its quality.

Despite the fact that AV1 was only released earlier this year, its adoption has been rapid and driven by the companies under the AOMedia banner. It is currently in Phase 2 of its adoption roadmap, which involves adoption by browsers and content creation tools.

As part of the next phase, it is expected that hardware support will start to surface on newer devices. That will be a big step forward for AV1, and will help it to cement its position as a viable alternative to H.265.

The implementation of AV1 support on video converters such as Movavi Video Converter and other software will vary depending on the developer. Until it is more widely-supported, being able to convert an AVI file to MP4 with H.264 will still be preferable for most end users.

If AV1 continues to meet its adoption roadmap, it should have hardware support on all new devices by 2020. Microsoft’s video extension release seems to indicate that they are proceeding on-schedule, but it is still relatively early days for the codec.

DW Staff

David Lintott is the Editor-in-Chief, leading our team of talented freelance journalists. He specializes in covering culture, sport, and society. Originally from the decaying seaside town of Eastbourne, he attributes his insightful world-weariness to his roots in this unique setting.