As QuickTime hits milestone, Apple looks ahead

On the eve of the annual NAMM Show celebrating the latest advances in music and audio products, Apple executives gathering for the Anaheim trade show were celebrating an achievement of their own—the rapid growth of QuickTime 7.

Since Apple released the multi-platform multimedia software architecture two years ago with the launch of Mac OS X 10.4, QuickTime 7 has gained widespread acceptance. It recently passed the 500 million download mark, an achievement Apple executives attribute to the decision to embrace industry-standard technologies, such as the H.264 video codec. Apple is now distributing more than one million copies of QuickTime per day.

H.264 delivers high-quality video at a low data rate. It’s considered by many broadcasters and consumer electronics makers to be the video codec of choice for their products and services.

“Content providers don’t want to follow a propritary technology because that means following one company,” said Frank Casanova, Apple’s director of QuickTime product marketing. “This was a gamble we took years ago when we moved away from proprietary, in-house technologies and went with standards-based codecs. Microsoft stayed with Windows Media and Real has their format and that seems to be working just fine for them—for us it was the right choice.”

And now? “It’s Microsoft versus the world,” Casanova said. “And we are part of that world. It’s a great place to be.”

Case in point: Both sides in the ongoing DVD format war—Blu-ray and HD DVD—have adopted H.264. So while Apple may hold a seat on the Blu-Ray Disc Association’s Board of Directors, it sees the format fight as a win-win situation for its technology.

“We are part of both of those technologies and are happy, regardless of the outcome, that H.264 is part of the overall equation,” Casanova said.

The H.264 codec is not just in upcoming DVD formats, it’s also supported by electronic devices like Sony’s PlayStation Portable and, of course, Apple’s iPod. Casanova pointed to the video file of Steve Jobs’ Macworld Expo keynote as an example of H.264 at work.

“Steve’s keynote is all in H.264,” Casanova said. “In 24 hours, 2.2 million people watched the stream from our site. This is an entire event we captured, encoded and streamed using H.264. We are reaching television-size audiences now. After the keynote is over, Steve passes the baton to us and we reach around the world.”

The keynote file saw 1 million streams a day in the five days after the keynote, Apple says. The full keynote is now available on the iTunes Store as a free download.

Editor's note: Due to an error it was reported that QuickTime downloads recently passed the two million download mark -- that number is, in fact, 500 million. Also, Blu-Ray and HD-DVD have adopted H.264, but not QuickTime.

This story, "As QuickTime hits milestone, Apple looks ahead" was originally published by PCWorld.

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