Microsoft is adding support for the Raw photo format to its forthcoming version of Windows, codenamed Longhorn.
The company has entered into agreements with Adobe, Canon, Fuji and Nikon to deliver native support for Raw images in both Longhorn and Windows XP.
The Raw format is gaining in popularity with digital photographers because of the higher-quality pictures it delivers. It represents the image that a camera produces before any processing is done.
Common digital image formats, including Tiff and Jpeg, process the file in order to compress it, but this can lead to loss of detail or colour quality. Most users currently need third-party software to work with Raw files. Microsoft's support means they will be able to perform basic actions such as opening and printing files.
Raw images are mostly supported by high-end cameras, but price drops will soon bring it within the reach of the common photo enthusiast, according to Ron Glaz, program director of digital imaging services and solutions with analyst firm IDC.
"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 file format by various types of digital camera users," he said.
Users of Windows XP can expect support for Raw images through an updated Image Thumbnailer and Viewer, which allows preview and printing of files from Canon and Nikon without requiring third-party software.
Microsoft hasn't published a projected release date for the update, but said users can download the free software "soon." The software vendor also promised to add support for the format in a future version of its Microsoft Digital Image Suite photo-editing product.
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