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Apple previews QuickTime 3.0

QuickTime 3.0 allows, for the first time, creation of content on Microsoft's Windows operating system.

    Apple Computer (AAPL) is giving software developers a first look at QuickTime 3.0, a much-anticipated revision of popular multimedia software that allows, for the first time, creation of content while using Microsoft's Windows operating system.

    Previous versions of Apple's QuickTime only allowed playback of QuickTime files on Windows, not actual content development, meaning this new capability could make QuickTime even more popular among software developers. On the downside, the new Windows authoring strategy might encourage developers to use PCs over Macintoshes, but Apple remains confident that content producers already using Macs will stay with the platform.

    Apple's release of QuickTime 3.0 comes on the same day that Microsoft announced the release of its DirectX Media 5.1 software development kit. (See related story)

    "QuickTime is a little more advanced and time-tested [than DirectX Media]," said Ralph Rogers, principal analyst for multimedia technologies at Dataquest. "[Apple has] put in the water line and all you have to do is hook the sink up," he added, noting the Microsoft software only offers the basic building blocks for creation of multimedia content.

    Microsoft's DirectX is a collection of controls which programmers use to communicate with PC hardware. For those features of DirectX that compete against those offered by QuickTime, Apple still has the technology edge, according to analysts.

    More than it did in the past, QuickTime 3.0 incorporates features that are clearly superior to Windows APIs (application programming interfaces), according to Rogers. As an example, Rogers pointed to QuickTime 3.0's "sound manager" technology, which gives developers the ability to play multiple sound tracks. Incorporating this would be very difficult without Apple's technology.

    The new QuickTime 3.0 technology offers support for several new digital media technologies including a commonly used full-motion Windows video standard called AVI, and DV, a format used by new digital video cameras.

    The support for a broad array of content types means QuickTime-ready software--Adobe Premiere and Macromedia Director, for example--can manipulate many kinds of data on different computer systems.

    "The most significant aspect of QuickTime is the fact that the Windows and the Mac versions are feature-equivalent now. Before, [developers] didn't have the same authoring capabilities on both platforms," said Stephan Somogyi, principal of technology consultancy, Gyroscope. "This makes it easier for end users and content creators to use QuickTime."

    Apple is planning on extending QuickTime features, too. At a recent industry conference, Apple said it intends to give users the ability to apply different special effects to a video clip in real time. The company is also adding the ability in QuickTime VR (for virtual reality) scenes to "stitch" a series of photos together automatically to quickly build a 360-degree view of an environment.

    The final release of QuickTime 3.0 for the general public is expected to be ready in January of 1998, according to Apple.