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"Ogg Vorbis: An Open Source Alternative to MP3" 
  05/01/2002

While a great deal of attention has been given to the MP3 format for compressed audio
files, there are alternatives that exist which could ultimately end up being more
important. Many people have been arguing for some time that Fraunhofer, the creator and
license holder for MP3, and the RIAA are actually very friendly behind the scenes. While
this isnít a big problem at this time, it is very obvious that if freely available
compressed audio files are going to be a viable for the long term, another solution is
necessary. This is where the Ogg Vorbis open source codec comes in to play. It is a
royalty-free alternative to MP3.

In order for any compressed audio format to gain in popularity, there needs to be software
that is capable of playing it. The popular Winamp media player is one such application,
and when a recent security problem was discovered, Nullsoft, the creator of Winamp and a
subsidiary of AOL/Time Warner, has suggested individuals download the newest upgrade which
at this time is version 2.80. It is the first version of this player to support Ogg
Vorbis. Recently, theKompany and Xiph.org have teamed up to bring Ogg Vorbis to the Sharp
Zaurus, the fist player of any kind to include support for Ogg Vorbis files on a handheld
computer. The result of this collaboration is the newly released tkcPlayer which also
plays mp3 files.

Ogg Vorbis definitely has a big hill to climb. MP3 is currently the best know and widely
used format for online music distribution and there are already other alternatives that
are produced by companies with considerable market share and marketing savvy such as the
Microsoft Windows Media format. These proprietary formats are all very good as far as the
quality of music playback, so the problem is not really in their technology nor are there
really any great advances in technology offered in the Ogg Vorbis format. Instead, it is
simply the open source arrangement offered by Ogg Vorbis that makes it the most attractive
of the current formats.

Because of the license agreements, anyone creating a hardware or software solution for the
playback of MP3 files are required to pay royalties. There are many devices that play
back these files for the home audio enthusiast. Now, Ogg Vorbis is finally making some
small movements in this area as well. A recent project completed by MP Sharp Technologies
(http://www.mpsharp.com/) is the first of its kind supporting Ogg Vorbis. It is based on
the Linux OS and is currently in beta test. Hopefully, it is only the first device of
many to come.

 - by Clayton Crooks

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