The Jpeg is as old as time itself, as old as Wagon Wheels, lip balm, small zebras and medium sized caravans. So Microsoft has a big job on its hands.
Towards the end of last week it officially unveiled 'HD Photo', a format which it hopes will kick the ageing Jpeg into retirement. Formally known as 'Windows Media Photo', Microsoft claims HD Photo will offer twice the efficiency of Jpeg, with fewer damaging artefacts, resulting in higher quality images at roughly half the size. HD Photo also offers both lossless and lossy image compression.
With an Adobe Photoshop plug-in for both Windows and Mac OS X, plus native support in Vista, Microsoft is certainly pressing for widespread adoption of the format. The trouble is Jpeg is ubiquitous. It is supported by every programme and every digital device. It may not be perfect, but if it is good enough for the masses' digital cameras then the masses will see it as good enough for them.
Furthermore, Jpeg is open license – anyone can use it – and while Microsoft has made the HD Photo format free to licence, you still have to go to Microsoft for approval, a hurdle few will want to add into their product development.
Of course, this is Microsoft and it is nothing if not ambitious having successfully dominated the computer industry for years, muscled in on the console arena and at least attempted to stick a finger up at Apple's iPod. In trying to replace the common Jpeg however it has probably just picked the hardest fight of all...