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Apple tunes up iSync, QuickTime

The company updates the two software applications as part of an effort to make sure that Macs and cell phones have plenty to talk about.

Apple Computer on Tuesday updated its iSync and QuickTime software as part of an effort to make sure that Macs and cell phones have plenty to talk about.

Both modest updates are aimed at taking advantage of the growing importance of wireless phones in the technology world. With iSync 1.1, Apple has increased the total number of cell phones that can exchange information with a Mac to about 20.

Version 6.3 of the QuickTime streaming media software, meanwhile, gains support for new cell phone multimedia standards. QuickTime, which acquired MPEG-4 support in July, now supports wireless devices compatible with the 3rd Generation Partnership Project, or 3GPP, which promotes telecommunications standards for mobile systems.

Apple is trying to take advantage of the fact that more powerful phones and networks are making it increasingly feasible to send photos or to play music, news or video over handheld devices. Like rivals RealNetworks and Microsoft, Apple hopes to curry favor with cell phone manufacturers as the market develops, in its case to sell its multimedia servers.

But while Microsoft and RealNetworks have focused on promoting proprietary formats for digital media distribution, Apple says it is focused on standards. And while RealNetworks and others want to see their players used on cell phones, Apple says it is more concerned that its software is used to create content and is happy as long as that content can be played on a variety of devices.

"It's less important for us to actually have a presence on these devices, because the standard does that for us," said Frank Cassanova, Apple's director of QuickTime product marketing. The Cupertino, Calif., company also aims to promote use of its professional content creation tools such as Final Cut Pro, which consumers can use to create videos and then view on 3GPP-compatible phones.

Specifically, the 3GPP standard supports both MPEG-4 and H.263 standards for the delivery of digital video as well as the AAC (Advanced Audio Coding) and AMR (Adaptive Multi-Rate) audio standards.

For consumers, 3GPP support means the ability to create an Apple iMovie or download a music clip, encode it with the extention ".3gp" in QuickTime 6.3 and export it to any cell phone that supports the 3GPP standard.

Apple has already garnered some support for QuickTime 6.3. Late last year, leading wireless carrier NTT DoCoMo started using QuickTime with its new 3G mobile phones. That move gave its nearly 44 million customers the ability to view video clips wirelessly or e-mail video files to a PC.

With iSync, Apple focused mainly on increasing the number of devices that can swap calendar and contact information with a Mac. The software now supports more phones with Bluetooth wireless connections as well as some Motorola phones that can be connected to a Mac through a USB (Universal Serial Bus) cable.

"A lot of people will find that their phone already works with iSync," said Joe Hayashi, director of product marketing for Apple's applications unit.

Also, Apple said that third-party software maker MarkSpace is close to releasing software that will expand iSync to support data exchanges with handheld computers running Microsoft's PocketPC operating system.

A complete list of gadgets supported by iSync is on Apple's Web site. In January, Apple released version 1.0 of iSync, which supported four phones as well as handhelds running the Palm operating system.

In addition, Apple gave iSync the ability to synchronize bookmarks from its Safari Web browser between two Macs.