Shortly after his
keynote at the Streaming Media West Conference, Phil Schiller, Apple’s vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing, and Frank Casanova, director of QuickTime Product Marketing, sat down with MacCentral to discuss QuickTime’s present and future status.
Some folks in the computer industry see QuickTime as “lagging” behind RealNetworks’ products and Windows Media Player. Others have wondered about the multimedia technology’s future since RealNetworks apparently doesn’t intend to jump aboard the MPEG-4 ship and Microsoft is already distributing non-ISO MPEG-4 codecs — and MPEG-4 is based on QuickTime. But the Apple execs think the problems are overblown.
“I think what we’ve been talking about at the show [Streaming Media West Conference] is the fact that we can now see a path in front of us with MPEG-4 starting to drive a lot of what have been proprietary solutions toward an open source solution,” Schiller told MacCentral. “We’re doing everything we can to help drive things there. One part of that was making the QuickTime file format as the basis for MPEG-4.”
Apple is part of the MPEG-4 Committee and the Internet Streaming Media Alliance (ISMA). As such, they’re working to promote MPEG-4 solutions based on the standard specifications.
“We’re doing everything we can to help get the world to get to a place the customers want it to go,” Schiller said. “And I will definitely not speak to what the other guys could or should or might be doing except to say that if we’re leading by example, that’s great.”
And he doesn’t feel that QuickTime is losing ground to competing RealNetworks and Windows technologies.
“Certainly Microsoft and others are doing a lot of good things, as are we, and I think that we’re at the beginning stages of an industry that’s at the formative stages,” he said. “There’s a lot to happen in the years ahead to actually make this a marketplace and a business for a lot of companies to take part in. So far, I think, many companies have lost more money in streaming media than made money doing it. And so, to say anybody is winning or losing is silly, because the market hasn’t really been created yet.”
Schiller also thinks that the perception that QT is falling behind overlooks several important developments. Being selected as the format for MPEG-4 is a huge advantage for Apple that will have “hundreds and hundreds” of companies supporting QuickTime, he said. There are 20,000 applications that work with QuickTime and no other product has that kind of support, he said. And there are “hundreds of millions” of QuickTime players out there, which shows that the technology has strong support from end users, he added.
“And I think the biggest thing is all that market data completely misses the mark because customers aren’t making decisions,” Schiller said. “They’re playing whatever they click on. They have all the players for free. It’s a silly game.”
However, he does admit that Apple has a perception issue to overcome, which is one of the reasons the company attended this week’s Streaming Media West Conference. It gave Apple the chance to tell where QuickTime is, what it is, how great it is, and the reality of how well it’s been adopted and supported, Schiller said.
“We’re showing some of the great things that are being done with it that no one else is doing, like the user interface ‘skins’ that Frank showed, and things we’ve been doing with digital cameras, and other new places that no one else has,” he added. “And when content developers hear this story, they get it. They get really excited about what we’ve been doing. We just have to be out there telling it, and that’s what we’re doing.”
QuickTime has been licensed to work with digital cameras from several companies. Schiller said this would happen with other products, though he wasn’t at liberty to offer details. Apple picked digital cameras first because the devices are increasingly popular, and they’re really useable in media architecture, he said.
“It’s been a great thing that’s happened to pick these cameras and deliver this when no one else paid attention to it,” Schiller said. “I think it was a really smart move. And I think there’ll be other smart moves.”
Most of the spotlight shining on Apple these days focuses on Mac OS X. That’s just fine with Schiller, who said that the next generation operating system is a great platform for QuickTime. In fact, he said it’s the “best platform” for QuickTime.
“We’ve integrated QuickTime right at the core system level, in a way that I don’t think people have seen before,” Schiller said. “It means that you can utilize QuickTime content throughout the system. It means that QuickTime will perform better throughout the system because of the core architecture, and how it fits in with all this great new faster networking.”
Still, he used Mac OS 9.1 for his keynote demo. Schiller said that’s because the MPEG-4 codec work being shown isn’t there yet on Mac OS X.
“It’s not there on anything yet,” he added. “MPEG-4’s not shipping yet. But that’s why we showed it on 9.1 today.”
Casanova said the rest of the demo could have been done on Mac OS X, but instead of having multiple Macs, the set up at the venue wasn’t conducive to using more than one computer.
The Apple execs didn’t have much opinion on the push by Randall McCallum (former CEO/President of Totally Hip)
to convince Apple to spin-off QuickTime into its own subsidiary, similar to FileMaker Pro. Casanova merely said, “everyone’s entitled to his opinion.”
“QuickTime is a core component of the Mac,” Schiller said. “It’s critical to our strategy of this whole digital hub. And so QuickTime is incredibly valuable to us for what it brings to the Mac, and we would never want to be separate from that if we didn’t have to.”
At last year’s QuickTime Live!, there was, obviously, much fanfare for QuickTime 5. Schiller thinks that Apple has delivered on all the promises made last October.
“We talked about skip protection, we talked about Streaming Server and UI skins, all of it,” he said. “The last thing we talked about was Sorenson 3 and that’s actually being delivered very very soon.”
Sorenson Video is a QuickTime compatible video codec designed for developers of applications or web sites that require compressed video segments. Sorenson Video 3 will purportedly offer a significant increase in compression speed and quality over Sorenson Video 2.
QuickTime Live! 2001 is slated for Oct. 8-11, at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, Beverly Hills, CA. It will feature keynotes, full-day workshops, breakout sessions and a product showcase featuring the latest development tools based on QuickTime technology, the industry standard for digital media creation and video and audio streaming.