@ Charles 9
I think Charles has it right - Google know exactly what they are doing, and they are forcing the hand of the MPEG-LA group.
Up until now, the MPEG-LA group have been able to stifle competition by the well known techniques of FUD - ie by telling all and sundry that they have the **ONLY** "safe" option available, and that anyone who thinks differently will get their house burned down by legal costs. Hmm, sound just like those old fashioned "protection" fees extorted by gangsters of old - pay the "insurance" or your property won't be safe from burning down.
Now the MPEG-LA group have to "pup up or shut up". If they ignore this new codec, then any future patent enforcement action is doomed - they have to take action against any known infringement of their patents or they lose their rights to do so. So they now have to take action against Google - who have enough money to fight them.
Since we can assume Google has a few patent cards in it's hand, I expect to see a few rounds of very public mud slinging, followed by sue and countersue in the courts, followed by an agreement that Google won't shutdown the MPEG-LA groupt's H.264 codec provided MPEG-LA don't shutdown Google's. Mutual Assured Destruction in the digital age - but just like the cold war equivalent, it only works if both sides have powerful weapons.
And already pointed out, Google (via Youtube) have the means to force vendors to include their codec as standard - even Microsoft and Apple couldn't get away with shipping systems that can't view Youtube videos of cats dancing or whatever. So in practical terms, vendors of all sizes will have to ship both codecs in their systems.
But, if MPEG-LA try to screw people on the licensing (ie put the price up once it's commonplace), then they run the risk of people just telling them where to go - after all there's a free alternative. So MPEG-LA will have to keep the costs down below the threshold where people ditch them and they lose their ubiquity, and their ability to charge is even further eroded.
I have huge reservations about Google and the power it wields on the internet, but this action I definitely approve of.