Both AVI and WMV are audio and video containers, meaning that they are used to play video on Windows systems. However, there are some significant differences between the two technologies.
AVI stands for Audio Video Interleave and was introduced by Microsoft in 1992 as part of their push to make Windows more suitable for media viewing and editing: the program was officially called “Video for Windows.”
AVI Current Use
AVI is not widely used outside of the PC video streaming arena and has fallen somewhat out of favor with both power users and general users. However, despite its outdatedness, there has been some success getting AVI to work with the more modern and common MPEG-4; the issue between the two is that MPEG-4 needs to be able to read a few frames ahead, but AVI's original specifications do not.
WMV stands for Windows Media Video, which is the general name for group of related technologies; the entire WMV family deals with video and audio in some way. You are much more likely to come into contact with WMV files than AVI files on most modern Windows systems.
WMV Current Use
WMV files are most commonly found on Windows PC to stream video files that have been downloaded either from the Internet or are stored on removable media, such as CD-ROMs and DVDs. WMV 9, an offshoot of the original WMV project, has been accepted by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers as a standard for HD DVD and Blu-Ray.
Cross Platform Functionality
AVI's greatest advantage over WMV is that it is more compatible across different platforms. WMV files can be made to work on Mac and Linux, but it can be a somewhat tedious process to get them to work properly, so, if you are at all interested in having your content be viewable across multiple platforms, then AVI is probably the better technology for you to use.
Compression and Video Quality
WMV's advantage is that it compresses the video more than AVI, so a video in WMV will take up less hard drive space than that same video in AVI. However, this advantage comes at a cost: WMVs tend to be lower quality than AVIs.
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