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Format wars: Can DivX still go legit, or has H.264 already won?


Once upon a time, DivX was the hot video codec. That wasn't because any major company was backing the format. It's because it offered high quality standard and high definition video encoding at relatively small file sizes. In other words, it's ideal for encoding bootleg videos of movies and TV shows for uploading to the internet.

In fact, if you download pretty much any movie from BitTorrent or another shady area of the internet, odds are that it'll either be encoded using DivX, or open source competitor Xvid. (Basically, most video players and hardware that can handle DivX can also handle Xvid).

But what about legitimate video distribution? That's where the money is, and that's where DivX wants to be. The company has succeeded in getting its certification on a ton of DVD and Blu-ray players and other set top boxes. But some of the most popular portable media players including the iPhone, iPod Touch, and Zune HD cannot support DivX video out of the box. Instead, they use the ever-more popular H.264 codec, which is also supported by the latest versions of Flash video.

Given the ever-increasing hype surrounding Flash video and the iPhone, it's easy to start to think that DivX could be on the way out. But DivX points out that there are more than 200-million DivX certified devices already on the market including disc players, digital TVs, and gaming consoles.

And today online video site CinemaNow announced that it would launch a new video download service powered by DivX. The site will go live tomorrow at, and users will be able to purchase and download-to-own a number of videos from the CinemaNow library.

CinemaNow offers a number of TV shows and Hollywood movies that are available for rental or purchase. Prices range from $1.99 to $19.99, and the DivX videos will only be available for purchase, not rental.

CinemaNow will also offer DivX downloads through partner stores for BlockBuster and Best Buy. So while CinemaNow doesn't exactly have the name recognition of iTunes or Amazon, the announcement could give DivX a pretty big boost in the ongoing codec wars.

So maybe it's not time to count DivX out just yet.

Tags: cinemanow, divx, online video, OnlineVideo, video