Microsoft Plans RAW Image Support for Longhorn

Microsoft, together with companies in the digital-imaging industry, on Wednesday announced enhancements to Windows and the forthcoming Longhorn that will let consumers work with RAW image files natively.

The ability to capture images in the RAW format is becoming increasingly important to digital photographers because of its ability to preserve an image's fidelity. Often likened to a digital negative, a RAW image is preferred by many digital photographers who feel it preserves the subtle color and detail possible with today's digital cameras.

Unlike a JPEG, which is processed in the camera, a RAW file is processed on a PC, where the exposure and color can be adjusted after the image has been captured.

However, each new camera model introduces changes to RAW image files; this in turn requires that digital-imaging applications also must be updated to support these changes. Microsoft is working with its partners to help solve this problem, especially as digital photography becomes even more popular.

"Aggressive price moves in the digital SLR space are expected to increase demand for digital SLR cameras to achieve an average annual growth rate of 12 percent between 2005 and 2009," said Ron Glaz, program director of digital imaging services and solutions at IDC.

"IDC expects that significant growth will derive from consumers who desire higher-quality images," said Glaz. "Microsoft's implementation of the RAW file format in Longhorn will simplify access to RAW files, and that is expected to increase the use of the RAW file format by various types of digital camera users."

Microsoft worked with imaging companies to develop the digital camera RAW architecture for Longhorn; the platform approach will provide built-in support for RAW files, enabling future Windows-based applications to use all supported image types.

According to Microsoft, this architecture will enable software applications to support new image types seamlessly upon codec certification by Microsoft. In addition, Longhorn will provide an application programming interface (API) that will help software vendors exercise greater control over the RAW formats in their applications.

In addition to announcing the imaging enhancements planned for the next version of Windows, Microsoft's new RAW Image Thumbnailer and Viewer for Windows XP will be available soon by way of a free download.

The RAW Image Thumbnailer and Viewer will provide consumers with thumbnails, previews, printing and metadata display of RAW images directly in Windows Explorer.


Great news for all graphics designers and photographers!