Its successor, in what is more a logical progression in nomenclature then a catastrophic imagination failure, is called H.265, and is likely to be pretty important as well.
The draft specifications for H.265 have just been published by the MPEG organisation.
So, what does H.265 mean for the video industry?
We asked Thomas Dove, from TestVid, specialists in video codec testing, what we could expect.
Here's his viewpoint.
H.265 is interesting, partly by the fact that it is the same basic DCT coding as H.264, just extended and further optmised - one reason that H.265 is a good nomenclature as a clear development from H.264 (although the 'correct' name is HEVC, i.e High Efficiency Video Coding).
There are the same issues as happened comparing H.264 versus MPEG-2, i.e. H.265 is about twice as efficient as H.264, but has more complexity (over 30 intra prediction modes, as one example) and typically takes more processing power - the aim is to take from no more processing power (for simpler Profiles and avoiding the more complex 'tools') to anything up to 3 or more times, although this seems perhaps optmistic at the moment. As there are so many modes and tools which the encoder can pick and choose from, the encoder and decoder providers will need to work carefully to ensure compatibilty and correct decoding.
The new standard is designed to cover larger displays at higher frame rates (up to 7,680×4,320 pixels @ 120 frames/sec), higher bit depths and also in future include scalable video coding and multiple view coding (i.e. including 3D), and although there is limited support for interlaced video the emphasis is definitely on compressed video.
Consideration has been given to multiple core/multiple thread processing and most of the major semiconductor, mobile and set-top box companies have been involved in the development of the standard, so although H.265 may be a power challenge for mobile devices for a while, there should be available some reasonable solutions not long after the January 2013 date for the Final Draft International Standard.