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Previews of multimedia for NT 5

Microsoft previews the multimedia underpinnings of Windows NT 5.0, but its release is still a long way off.

Microsoft (MSFT) this week previewed the multimedia underpinnings of Windows NT 5.0, but its release is still a long way off.

The DirectX 6.0 set of programming interfaces will give software developers a framework for creating multimedia applications for the upcoming Windows NT 5.0. Not yet in beta, the technology was nonetheless previewed at a developer-only conference near the Microsoft campus.

DirectX is Microsoft's answer to Apple's QuickTime. Both software technologies let developers build a variety of multimedia applications, but QuickTime comes with more prebuilt components and is easier to use, according to industry analysts. DirectX is Windows-only, while QuickTime allows authoring on both Windows and Macintosh.

Microsoft's multimedia may lack ease-of-use and cross-platform authoring, analysts say, but Apple has been slow to take advantage of its technological edge. The final release of QuickTime 3.0 has been delayed for more than six months. Apple CEO Steve Jobs also announced at last month's Macworld conference that the company would begin charging $30 for the "professional version" that has the authoring tools. The player for viewing QuickTime-built content will remain free of charge.

DirectX 6.0 is due to go into beta this spring, with a final release this fall, according to Microsoft. Windows NT 5.0 won't be ready until at least the end of 1998. Before then, DirectX 5.0 will be rolled into Windows 98, due by the end of June.

One new feature of DirectX 6.0 is the DirectMusic interface that will give PC applications access to MIDI and other instrument files. The API set will also beef up its 3-D support with single-pass multitexturing, bump mapping, vertex buffers, stencil planes, and texture compression.