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Apple Previews QuickTime 6, Releases QuickTime Streaming Server 4

Apple Previews QuickTime 6, Releases QuickTime Streaming Server 4

by , 5:00 PM EST, February 12th, 2002

Apple officially previewed QuickTime 6 today at the QuickTime Live! conference. Apple says that QuickTime 6 is ready to be released, but that the company is waiting for licensing terms for MPEG-4 to be more reasonable. Current licensing terms for MPEG-4 require codec providers and content providers to both pay royalties for streaming content with the technology. Apple, one of the patent holders involved, wants for content providers to be exempt from having to pay royalties in order to achieve the biggest market penetration. Apple's press release serves as both announcement and propaganda tool in this regards.

Also in this press release is the release of QuickTime Streaming Server 4. QuickTime Streaming Server 4 allows streaming content in both MPEG-4 and MP3, and the company says it is releasing this product now because it does not require the royalties mentioned above. From Apple:

Apple® today previewed QuickTime® 6, featuring full support for MPEG-4, the emerging standard for streaming high quality content to computers and other digital devices. QuickTime 6, along with Apple's new QuickTime Streaming Server 4 and the new QuickTime Broadcaster, enables the first complete MPEG-4 based streaming media solution.

Although the QuickTime 6 software is complete and ready for release, Apple is delaying its release until MPEG-4 video licensing terms are improved. The MPEG-4 licensing terms proposed by MPEG-LA (the largest group of MPEG-4 patent holders) includes royalty payments from companies, like Apple, who ship MPEG-4 codecs, as well as royalties from content providers who use MPEG-4 to stream video. Apple agrees with paying a reasonable royalty for including MPEG-4 codecs in QuickTime, but does not believe that MPEG-4 can be successful in the marketplace if content owners must also pay royalties in order to deliver their content using MPEG-4.

"MPEG-4 is the best format for streaming media on the web, and QuickTime 6 is the first complete MPEG-4 solution," said Philip Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing. "MPEG-4 is poised for great success once the licensing terms are modified to allow content providers to stream their content royalty-free."

QuickTime 6 provides a fully scalable, ISO compliant MPEG-4 solution for streaming media to the widest range of devices. Key features of QuickTime 6 include:

  • Apple-developed video codec for encoding and decoding MPEG-4 video content;
  • support for Advanced Audio Coding (AAC), the next generation audio format;
  • support for CELP, the MPEG-4 speech codec for reproduction of natural speech;
  • adherence to the Internet Streaming Media Alliance (ISMA) 1.0 specification;
  • MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 playback, ideal for content creators who wish to preview and share work throughout the production process;
  • Flash 5 support;
  • DVC Pro (PAL) support;
  • updated user interface with a new, easy-to-use "Favorites" interface and easier access to QuickTime content; and
  • skip protection enhancements.

QuickTime is Apple's industry-leading, standards-based software for developing, producing and delivering high quality audio and video over IP, wireless and broadband networks. Last year, 80 million users downloaded QuickTime Player via the Internet while tens of millions more copies were distributed via digital cameras, software titles and enhanced music CDs.

As the platform of choice for content creators worldwide, QuickTime delivers the full media experience for thousands of unique titles of enhanced music CDs and software titles. Additionally, QuickTime ships on more than 150 digital camera models to provide consumers with the highest quality media playback experience.

Apple also announced the immediate availability of QuickTime Streaming Server 4, Apple's advanced open-source, standards-based streaming server, now with MPEG-4 and MP3 streaming capabilities. QuickTime Streaming Server 4 does not require a MPEG-4 license and is therefore immediately available. QuickTime Streaming Server 4 features include:

  • full MPEG-4 support, allowing MPEG-4 content to be streamed live or on demand;
  • ability to serve MP3 files or playlists to standard MP3 players, such as iTunes(TM), QuickTime player or WinAmp;
  • enhancements to the web-based administration tool; and
  • quality of service and skip protection enhancements.

QuickTime Streaming Server 4 is available as a free download at www.apple.com/quicktime/products/qtss.

Apple is a co-founder of the Internet Streaming Media Alliance (ISMA), which is dedicated to the development of products and technologies that adhere to industry standards. QuickTime was chosen by the International Organization for Standards (ISO) as the file format for MPEG-4, providing the software with a deep level of compatibility with the standard.

You can find more information and download links for QuickTime Streaming Server 4 at Apple's Web site.

The Mac Observer Spin:

QuickTime 6 could reshape the battle lines in the battle for market dominance in the world of multimedia streaming. It's interesting to see Apple filling a press release with what is part manifesto and part propaganda in the company's battle to get something sane out of the MPEG-LA. If you want content providers to use your technology, you can't expect them to pay for the privilege every time they do so; at least you can't when there is a company like Microsoft in the picture who will do anything they can to control every aspect of computing, including, but not limited to, giving away their own technology.

In other words, it doesn't cost content providers a royalty to use Windows Media Format, and people are not going to pay to use MPEG-4 no matter how good it might be when there is a market share leading alternative available. Kudos to Apple for making a public stand on this issue (it is certainly in their best interest to do so), but it would be really interesting to see what was going on behind the scenes.

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