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Microsoft and Canon join forces on Vista's Windows Color System  
Tuesday, September 13, 2005 | by Rob Galbraith

Microsoft and Canon today have announced they are jointly implementing some of the core technology inside the Windows Color System (WCS), the new and ambitious colour management architecture at the heart of the upcoming Vista operating system.

In designing WCS, Microsoft has set out to radically improve the way colour is handled at the OS level; the specifications for the new colour architecture are truly impressive in their breadth and depth. The goal of the WCS underpinnings in Vista, however, is to not make colour more complicated. Instead, says a Microsoft white paper, all the heavy lifting going into WCS' development is building towards "color that just works" for the end user.

To that end, the Redmond, Washington-based company has licensed technology called Kyuanos from Canon (Kyuanos is derived from a Greek word meaning blue). For months, says Josh Weisberg, group product manager for digital imaging at Microsoft, engineers from his company have been working together with Canon engineers from the camera group, printer group and elsewhere within the Japanese electronics giant. Their collaborative efforts have been focused on implementing key elements of Kyuanos in Vista. These elements include:

  • A new way of describing the colour characteristics of digital devices such as monitors and printers that's meant to solve many of the limitations inherent in ICC profiles today.

  • The implementation of CIECAM02 as the colour appearance model for WCS. CIECAM02 is said to "preserve the true appearance of color elements in each step of the workflow."

  • More and better gamut-mapping models that are meant to provide superior colour space conversions than ICC rendering intents.

  • Promised seamless integration with ICC-based workflows.

With Kyuanos under the hood, says a Microsoft press release, photographers will see "better screen-to-print matching, better overall color appearance, and support for higher fidelity printing" in Vista, as well as in applications running in Vista that utilize all that WCS will offer. Based on what we've read in the past few months about Microsoft's plans for WCS, the press release may be understating the technology's potential. If it works as described - and a finished Vista is still projected to be about a year away, so it's way too soon to say - it could well be a transforming technology for photographers who want to make great prints but don't want to become a colour scientist to do so.

For the first time at a public event, Microsoft will be demonstrating this week some of Vista's colour features that utilize Kyuanos. Weisberg indicates that a Microsoft demonstration area at Canon Expo 2005 in New York will be running a beta of Vista and showcasing the promised better screen-to-print matching, the creation of WCS output profiles tuned for different ambient lighting conditions, a comparison of a contract proof to a proof generated through Vista on a Canon printer and more. Microsoft colour architect Michael Stokes, a key figure in the development of many aspects of modern colour management for more than a decade, will be among the Microsoft contingent. Canon Expo 2005 runs from September 14-16, 2005 at the Javits Convention Center in New York. Much of the event is invitation only.

A Microsoft document entitled Windows Color System: The Next Generation Color Management System describes many of the geekier aspects of WCS in Vista and the role of Canon's Kyuanos technology. It's a revised and expanded version of a paper posted on the Microsoft web site earlier this year; the new version more clearly spells out Canon's involvement and provides more detail on Vista's colour infrastructure.

This is the third Microsoft-Canon announcement of significance to photographers in the past year. In September 2004, Canon announced their intent to support Microsoft's Media Transfer Protocol (MTP) in future digital camera products. In June 2005, Canon was among four companies (Adobe, Fujifilm and Nikon were the others) pledging to work with Microsoft on building full-featured RAW file support into Vista.

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