JPEGs don't seem like the kind of thing that can be replaced but, believe it or not, the next step towards a next-generation picture format has been taken. And it's Microsoft who is the driving force. The new format will probably be called JPEG XR, but it's being called 'HD photo' by Microsoft as some marketer obviously thinks it's a good idea.

The Joint Photographic Expert Group (that's JPEG, folks) has announced it is to work towards creating an open standard for the new format so it can be used by all camera manufacturers and computer systems.

But what will HD Photo actually mean? Microsoft says the new format "offers a host of new features and benefits focusing on the current and emerging needs of digital photography." The main benefit, as implied by the HD prefix, is for improved photo quality.

JPEGs lose some image data as they are highly compressed. Microsoft says the new format is more efficient at compression while retaining better image quality. That means better images and smaller file sizes.

"Microsoft is very pleased that the JPEG working group is considering HD Photo as a new standard, and we are committed to working...with JPEG and its affiliated standards organisations to ensure that this file format serves the needs of the next generation of consumer and professional photographers," said Tom Robertson, Microsoft's general manager of standards.