Aiming to please photography enthusiasts, Microsoft is enhancing current and upcoming versions of its Windows operating system to allow users to more easily work with "Raw" image files, which take information directly from the camera's image sensor to better preserve color and detail.
The software maker is working with digital imaging companies Adobe Systems, Canon, Fuji Photo Film (Fujifilm) and Nikon to provide RAW support in the next version of its Windows operating system, codenamed Longhorn, it announced Wednesday.
Microsoft is also enhancing the digital imaging capabilities of its current Windows XP software by giving users a tool to view photo thumbnails and preview and print Canon and Nikon Raw files from Windows Explorer, it said. The tool will be available soon for free download at http://www.microsoft.com.
In addition, a future version of the company's Digital Image Suite software will let users organize, edit and convert Raw files, it said.
Microsoft's support for Raw comes amid strong interest in digital photography and declining prices for high-quality digital SLR (single lens reflex) cameras, it said.
Unlike JPEG files, which are processed in the camera, Raw files are processed on a PC, allowing users to adjust the exposure and color after the image has been captured. Although the format is thought to produce better quality photos, it is difficult to offer software support because different camera models introduce changes to the Raw files. Digital imaging applications must be updated to support these changes and Microsoft said it is working with its partners to solve the problem.
The Redmond, Washington, company is also developing a certification program for third-party Raw image codecs to expand the range of Raw image formats that can be used in Windows, it said.
Longhorn, due out in the second half of next year, is expected to offer built-in support for a range of photo formats, including Raw, as well as an application programming interface (API) that will allow software vendors greater control over the Raw conversion in their applications, Microsoft said.
Support for more formats is only one of the new photography features expected in Longhorn. Microsoft is also working on new ways of viewing and organizing photos, said Neil Holloway, corporate vice president of sales, marketing and services for Microsoft in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA).
Longhorn will use metadata to let users sort photos into groups, such as by holiday or recent family photos, Holloway said during an interview in London this week.
"Visualization will be key to Longhorn," he said.