Apple exec talks about QuickTime's success

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Apple released numbers earlier this week showing how popular QuickTime is becoming. According to the figures they released, QuickTime is being downloaded more than one million times every three days by Windows and Mac users. QuickTime 5 downloads are on track to top 100 million downloads in its first year of distribution.

These numbers do not include software titles that license QuickTime for use with their products or the digital camera manufacturers that use QuickTime. Currently, there are over 120 different models of digital cameras that use QuickTime; one-third of those use QuickTime's movie format to capture movies.

"The reason why I believe there's so much digital camera, enhanced CD and software title distribution is because we treat the Macintosh and PC platform as peers," Frank Casanova, director of QuickTime product marketing, told MacCentral. "The quality, codecs and interface are all the same, so all of these content providers can rest assured that Mac and Windows customers will get the same experience. That's something we can say is uniquely Apple."

Apple also believes it's the quality of QuickTime that is making it so popular on the Internet. Apple's movie trailer site is a favorite destination for many users because of the exclusive content offered and the quality of the work done on the trailers.

"The movie studios love the work our trailer guys do," said Casanova. "They're probably some of the most talented encoders on the planet -- they can make the trailers look incredible, whether it's the new Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, or one of the regular movies. Any other movie trailer you see around that is not in our format just looks horrible. When people go to our movie trailer site or any of the movie sites they expect the quality we have with Sorenson."

Windows users are apparently seeing the difference in quality too -- most of the downloads of QuickTime 5 are for the Windows version of the application. Of course, Mac users get the QuickTime player on their machine automatically when they buy a computer, so a download isn't necessary but Apple says the download numbers closely follow the market share numbers.

"The downloads are overwhelmingly for Windows," said Casanova. "It's a little more skewed to the Mac than overall market share, but Windows downloads are approaching 90 percent."

Apple also helps record companies with the release of new CDs. Called "Listening Parties," Apple works to encode an artist's new CD and on a particular day the public can go to the artist's Web site -- or sometimes Apple's Web site -- and get a sneak peek of how the new CD will sound. "We draw arena size crowds. We've handled Sade's newest album, Ozzy Osbourne, we've done Country, Rap and all sorts of Pop," according to Casanova.

QuickTime authoring is also becoming more popular for the Web. In fact, Casanova said that QuickTime is the most popular format for authoring Internet content -- even some of the content you don't think may be QuickTime. "Even the folks at RealNetworks will tell you that most of the video content that streams across their servers at one point in time was QuickTime and they coded it over to Real."

One of the biggest changes to come to QuickTime will be MPEG 4. QuickTime was chosen by the International Organization for Standards (ISO) as the file format for MPEG-4, and Apple is working with other members to bring interoperable MPEG-4 products and technologies to market.

"The DNA of MPEG 4 and the DNA of QuickTime are the same -- that gives us a big advantage," said Casanova. "As we're developing our own MPEG 4 codecs, we will be able to playback and author ISO compliant MPEG 4 files within the QuickTime application itself."

MPEG 4 is designed from the ground up with the Internet as its target, with many Web features in its architecture. MPEG 1, designed for CD-ROMS and MPEG 2 designed for DVDs are not a good fit for the Web unless you have massive bandwidth, according to Casanova.

Neither Microsoft nor RealNetworks have taken a strong stance on MPEG 4, which gives Apple a real advantage in the marketplace. The battle for MPEG 4 will not be like the battles we know today -- some big name players will soon become involved.

"The playing field changes drastically with MPEG 4," said Casanova. "Today it's a discussion about Real, Microsoft and Apple, but with MPEG 4 the players are companies like Philips, Erickson and Nokia and all of the folks who have a vested interest in seeing formats evolve that don't tie anyone to one particular format and therefore any particular company. An industry standard is just that -- an industry standard that no one owns and that will evolve freely and in an equitable fashion. For Apple, the big advantage is that it's based on our file format, so anything that happens in that space, we're compatible with it. We don't control it, but we're compatible with it by definition."

With the download rate that Apple sees for QuickTime, they can have an incredible amount of MPEG 4 ready players in the marketplace in a relatively space of time. Using the numbers released yesterday, Apple could provide 2.1 million MPEG 4 compatible players to users in one week.

Apple's has a few places they can show off QuickTime in the next few months. Apple Vice President Phil Schiller will keynote DV Expo next week and of course, Macworld Expo is in January. But QuickTime also has its own show -- QuickTime Live! -- that will be held in Beverly Hills, CA from February 11-14, 2002.

This story, "Apple exec talks about QuickTime's success" was originally published by PCWorld.

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