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Apple to open part of QuickTime code

The Mac maker is readying a run at Net broadcasting rivals by opening portions of its QuickTime technology for all to see, sources say.

LAS VEGAS--Apple is readying a run at Internet broadcasting competitors Microsoft and Real Networks at this week's National Association of Broadcasters trade show by opening portions of code behind its QuickTime technology for all to see.

Apple Computer this week is expected to put the popular multimedia software in the open source domain, as it recently did with portions of the Mac OS X operating system, industry sources said.

QuickTime 4.0 offers the ability to do live streaming, which allows content to be played while it is being downloaded, instead of making users wait until the transfer has finished. Because the company is making parts of the technology available in the so-called open-source arena, the server version of the software that sends data to a user's computer can be modified to run on Windows NT and Unix servers, as well as on the Macintosh.

By allowing companies to modify QuickTime and easily include it in their own software or multimedia titles, Apple is hoping to drive rapid and wide acceptance of the newest version of the software.

The move also underscores the growing strategic importance of multimedia streaming technologies, as companies such as Yahoo explore new ways to keep viewers tuned in to their sites. Yahoo recently announced its intention to purchase Net broadcaster Broadcast.com, which hosts internal corporate broadcasts, quarterly earnings calls, and other forms of high-bandwidth services, for about $5.7 billion.

The broadcasters conference here is focusing on multimedia broadcasting because both local affiliates and the traditional network broadcasters are looking at ways to stem the loss of viewers to the Internet, all while figuring out ways to increase their revenues. With huge quantities of video and audio material already available, many are going to the show to find ways to bring this content online.

In fact, Broadcast.com president and cofounder Mark Cuban will be giving a keynote speech on how Wall Street values electronic media players. Real Networks' founder and chief executive Rob Glaser is also giving a keynote on the subject of how Webcasting can become a revenue generating activity for broadcasters.

With a significant amount of interest in the topic built up already, Apple's announcement is well timed to take advantage of that interest. But Apple is up against some stiff competition, and its rivals have a substantial head start in the market. Microsoft and RealNetworks already have widely used streaming products available, and Microsoft has been busy lining up prominent Web sites to use its NetShow streaming technology, offering them technical support and marketing money.

Apple's hope is that by giving independent developers access to the original programming instructions, they can tweak software for particular purposes and in turn make it more attractive to customers. Apple, in turn, gets not only increased market share, but also improvements to the software that developers contribute, accelerating the whole product development cycle.

Sources said the company is expected to publicly offer a version of the QuickTime 4.0 software at the convention. The software was initially slated to get its official launch at January's Macworld trade show. It will feature a sleek, easier-to-use interface design and a host of new technical capabilities, including the ability to playback and stream MP3 files, sources said.

Apple has registered the domain name QT-TV.net in support of the new software's rollout. While Apple's exact plans for the site are not known, sources close to Apple speculated that the company will use the site to showcase its technology in much the same fashion that Real Networks does with its site.

Meanwhile, the company is expected to take the wraps off of video editing software called Final Cut that will place it in competition against Adobe Systems, a longtime developer of Mac software.