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Photoshop gets HD Photo support

Microsoft plug-in lets Photoshop read and write HD Photo images, and some camera hardware companies are also building in support.

LAS VEGAS--Microsoft announced a plug-in on Wednesday that gives Adobe Systems' widely used Photoshop the ability to read and write images stored in Microsoft's HD Photo format.

The software, written by Pegasus Imaging and Microsoft with help from Adobe, is available in beta form for Windows users as a free download on Microsoft's Web site.

Josh Weisberg Josh Weisberg

A version for PowerPC- and Intel-based Apple computers will be ready in about two weeks, and the final version should be done in April, Josh Weisberg, director of Microsoft's digital-imaging business development, said at a meeting here at the Photo Marketing Association trade show.

In addition, Weisberg said several hardware companies are building products with HD Photo support. Among them are Sunplus Technology and Novatek, Taiwanese companies that design image-processing sensors, and Ability Enterprise, a Taiwanese camera maker that licenses its designs to better-known brands.

Microsoft has spent years developing HD Photo, and it hopes to eventually replace the ubiquitous JPEG. Weisberg believes the first cameras supporting HD Photo will arrive in 12 to 18 months.

"Today's cameras can capture a lot more information than JPEG offers," Weisberg said. "It's getting a little long in the tooth."

HD Photo compresses images more efficiently, supports richer colors and can record subtler tonal detail, Microsoft argues. The company hopes to profit indirectly from HD Photo by encouraging customers to use Microsoft products that support it--Vista and its Photo Gallery software, for example, or Microsoft's Expression family of image-editing software.

HD Photo is built into Windows Vista, though in that product, it goes by its earlier name, Windows Media Photo. In its attempt to spread the HD Photo as widely as possible, Microsoft changed to the more neutral HD Photo name, gave it liberalized licensing terms and is seeking to make the file format an industry standard.

The Photoshop plug-in lets photographers save a "raw" image taken directly from a camera's image sensor as an HD Photo image, Weisberg said. The plug-in works with the current CS2 version of Photoshop and the upcoming CS3, due to be announced March 27.

Microsoft also announced that HD Photo will be supported in future versions of Microsoft Office and Internet Explorer. The company also plans to release a batch conversion tool for those who want to change existing images into HD Photo images.