Android’s Gingerbread Brings WebM to Mobile Phones

Monday’s release of Android 2.3, code named Gingerbread, is adding support for the WebM open video format to the smart phone platform. Gingerbread users will be able to play WebM videos in their device’s Chrome browser, and Android application developers will be able to make use of WebM as well.

The first version of Android will ship with libvpx 0.9.2, which is a slightly outdated version of WebM. Support for the newest WebM release 0.9.5, code-named Aylesbury, will be pushed out with a maintenance release, according to Google’s WebM product manager John Luther. Users will be able to access every WebM video stream or file with the WebM release included in Gingerbread, but the coming update should help with the format’s playback performance and memory footprint, amongst other things.

Support for Android is an important first step for WebM to gain market share. Google (s GOOG) open sourced the video format in May, and it has since been integrated into Firefox, Chrome and Opera. WebM has also gotten more support from video vendors and application developers.

Luther said in November that 80 percent of YouTube’s popular videos are now available in WebM, and Skype’s client started to utilize WebM for its new group video chat functionality. The next step for WebM is to get on devices, and the first chipsets supporting hardware acceleration for WebM are expected to reach the market place in early 2011.

However, it may take a while before many Android users will be able to make use of WebM. Most network operators are notoriously slow to roll out new Android versions. In fact, 56 percent of all Android handsets are still running version 2.1 or older, despite the fact that 2.2 has been available for close to six months now.

Image courtesy of (CC-BY-SA) Flickr user busbeytheelder.

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