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Apple tunes up QuickTime for wireless

The new version of QuickTime will offer creation, delivery and playback features geared to 3G wireless networks that use the CDMA 2000 standard.

Apple Computer released a new version of its QuickTime multimedia software on Thursday, adding support for the creation, delivery and playback of video over wireless networks.

Known as QuickTime 6.5, the upgrade fills out Apple's support for high-speed 3G, or third-generation, wireless networks, according to the company's director of QuickTime product marketing, Frank Casanova.

QuickTime 6.5 includes native support for the 3rd Generation Partnership Project 2 (3GPP2), the media standard used in wireless networks that use CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) 2000. The CDMA standard is one of two major technologies used to create high-speed wireless networks. In July, Apple introduced similar support for the other major high-speed wireless media standard, the 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), which is used in GSM, or Global System for Mobile Communications, networks.

Apple also announced on Thursday that CDMA 2000 carrier KDDI, Japan's second-largest wireless service provider, has endorsed QuickTime 6.5 as a multimedia format on its network. The Cupertino, Calif.-based Mac maker has already won an endorsement for QuickTime from the leading wireless company in Japan, NTT DoCoMo, which runs a GSM network.

"Apple is the first mainstream multimedia software provider of 3GPP2 content creation and playback tools," Casanova said. "We're partnering with all the people that matter."

Wireless carriers are looking at video delivery as a potentially lucrative new service, but it relies on high-speed networks that are only widely available in Japan and other parts of Asia. Trials of 3G networking are underway in Europe and the United States, but it's unclear when those regions will see a broad introduction of the technology.

Although video-ready wireless networks are still a work in progress in much of the world, multimedia software vendors like Apple, RealNetworks and Microsoft are racing to stake out mobile beachheads for their competing formats. Although Microsoft appears to have the momentum for delivering multimedia to the desktop, the battle for the wireless market is still wide open, creating an important opportunity for Apple and RealNetworks.

RealNetworks is pushing its player and delivery software as a multiformat alternative to Microsoft's proprietary Windows Media technology, and has signed numerous partners to date, most recently Ericsson.

Apple, by contrast, sees standards-based multimedia support as a way to boost sales of its hardware and software, which provide leading content creation tools for both professionals and amateurs. The company took a major step down that road last year with the release of QuickTime 6, which is compliant with MPEG-4 (Moving Picture Experts Group) standards.

Casanova said the KDDI deal comes as adoption of QuickTime 6 is soaring, with some 175 million downloads racked up on Apple's Web site, and millions more through the company's bundling deals with America Online (for AOL 9 Optimized, the latest version of AOL's software) and with hardware manufacturers.

QuickTime 6.5 offers home video creation tools that will allow cell phone users to record, edit and upload video clips over KDDI's network, according to Casanova. In addition, the software will offer commercial programmers the ability to distribute content through KDDI's network through Final Cut Pro and other off-the-shelf content-creation tools from Apple.

"There are thousands of wireless content companies in Japan," Casanova said. "The main providers are all creating QuickTime content."