Yesterday, Apple released a preview version of QuickTime 6 that supports MPEG-4, a new standard for rich media on the Internet. Despite QuickTime 6’s release, Apple still hasn’t worked out all of the licensing issues with MPEG LA, the group of MPEG-4 patent holders. However, both sides of the licensing dispute are confident that a resolution is near.
“We are expecting a new update on draft licensing terms from MPEG LA. I think there’s going to be a satisfactory resolution to the issues,” Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product marketing, told MacCentral.
Larry Horn, vice president of licensing for MPEG LA, was similarly confident when he spoke with MacCentral yesterday, predicting a speedy resolution to the dispute.
“We expect to issue a license this summer,” said Horn. “Progress is being made, the discussions are going well and I’m confident we are going to come up with something the market finds acceptable.”
Apple balked earlier this year when MPEG LA released its proposed licensing structure for companies to use the file format. The problem is not with the amount that Apple would have to pay, totaling approximately US$2 million, but the amount of proposed content royalties MPEG LA wants to charge providers.
MPEG LA proposed a $0.02 per hour, per stream charge for providers of the QuickTime stream — if they are remunerated — in addition to the money they receive from Apple and other companies paying the codec royalties.
With both sides in the dispute clearly coming together on the issues, work continues on building MPEG-4 in the community. Even without final licensing, the release of QuickTime 6 and Broadcaster is a big step for the content creation community.
“Apple is the platform of choice for the content creation community,” said Tom Jacobs, president of the Internet Streaming Media Alliance (ISMA). “The great part about the release of QuickTime 6 is that MPEG-4 essentially becomes the new format for that community. The communities ability to create in the MPEG-4 format and deploy to the Web directly without having to transcode is a critical step forward in the process.”
Apple is a founding member of ISMA, whose goal is to set open standards for how media is streamed over the Internet. ISMA plans to create a standards based, bandwidth scalable, player neutral, streaming media format. Although standards already exist for the fundamental pieces required to deploy streaming media solutions over IP, ISMA will adopt elements of existing standards and contribute to those still in development in order to create a cross-platform, multi-vendor standard.
QuickTime 6 includes a new Instant-On Streaming feature that eliminates buffer delays and provides users with the ability to quickly and easily scrub through streaming media content to locate and instantly view specific sections. QuickTime 6 running on Mac OS X also supports JPEG 2000, the next generation JPEG standard that allows users to capture still images in a higher quality and smaller file size than they could before.
QuickTime 6 also includes Advanced Audio Coding (AAC), the standard MPEG-4 audio format. AAC is the next-generation professional-quality audio format that delivers vastly superior sound quality at drastically reduced file sizes — better than MP3 and better than Windows Media Player (WMA), according to Apple.
The ability to view QuickTime content on the Web will remain free to users — all that’s needed is to download the QuickTime player from Apple’s Web site. Apple has posted an
MPEG-4 video and
AAC audio galleries to their Web site so users can hear the difference QuickTime 6 makes. If you’re a content creator and want to use QuickTime 6 to make MPEG-4 content, you will need to purchase a pro code. For the preview period of QuickTime 6, your QuickTime Pro 5 code will work, but not with the final release.
“I think it’s a really good value. You’re going to get a tool that for the first time allows you to create MPEG-4 video content and create AAC audio content,” said Schiller. “It’s very powerful technology. We’ve done this in the past with major versions of QuickTime — I think that’s a reasonable offering to customers.”