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Jobs pitches QuickTime to TV

Apple's interim CEO addresses the National Association of Broadcasters, pitching his company's software as crucial for creating digital content.

    LAS VEGAS--Apple Computer (AAPL) interim CEO Steve Jobs delivered the opening keynote speech of the annual National Association of Broadcasters convention here, pitching his company's QuickTime software as pivotal technology for the new--and confusing--era of digital content creation.

    "We're dying to work with you guys. We can bring some architecture to this Tower of Babel that's happening today," intoned Jobs, who was missing the beard and rugged appearance that have marked recent public speeches.

    New broadcast services are going to be possible because of the advent of digital TV, which offers the alluring prospect of combining video broadcasts with information from the Internet as well as various other sources, Jobs said.

    Content creators will have to deal with a hodgepodge of technologies as they face the challenge of taking graphics and other material designed for one medium and reusing it in another, the Apple executive added.

    In the era of digital content creation, "we basically have a Tower of Babel. People want to take information from multiple sources and take resulting output and have multiple destinations," Jobs noted, alluding to the fact that multimedia data comes in various forms and is played back on different kinds of computers.

    With proliferating standards for DVD, digital TV, digital video, videoconferencing, and more, it becomes difficult to efficiently create content that can be distributed on different platforms. QuickTime is software that can solve that problem, he maintained.

    Apple's QuickTime 3 Pro, just recently introduced, has new authoring features for both Windows and Macintosh users such as the ability to play videos on an entire screen, the ability to cut and paste digital video and audio clips, and tools that prep content for Webcasting.

    The NAB convention, which is meeting here until Thursday, is fixated on the move to digital television. Broadcasters in the top ten markets must switch to digital broadcasts in November, and the TV networks are slowly unveiling plans. NBC already has said it would transition to high-definition TV beginning this fall.

    Moreover, the fact that the cable and television industry is tapping the Apple cofounder--a legend in the PC industry--for its trade show speaks to how computer technology and the Internet has become important in entertainment and other markets. Microsoft CEO Bill Gates, for instance, recently spoke to a gathering of newspaper publishers, whose interests seemingly lie outside the realm of software sales and development.

    At least one attendee who works in Hollywood seemed to take to Jobs?s pitch.

    Jeff Buchignani, director of sales for Digital Editing Solutions, remarked that QuickTime's ability to easily output data such as MPEG in different formats is very useful for people who are editing video. Digital Editing is developing a system for sending video email attachments for directors to proof and mark up for editing at remote locations.

    In another keynote, Intel (INTC) senior vice president Ron Whittier echoed similar themes about managing content development across different kinds of computers.

    Whittier mostly focused on how traditional content such as television broadcasting will be combined with interactive content across a growing array of devices.

    He announced that Intel is working with a variety of participants in the television, consumer electronics, and PC industries to enable content to be created once and then delivered over cable, satellite, DVD, and other media. The idea is to facilitate the growth of these increasingly interrelated markets.

    "The number of systems coming to the low end of market [is growing] at an ever increasing rate," remarked Whittier, alluding to Intel's newfound interest in TV set-top computers. Since last year's keynote, Intel has increased its focus on information appliances rather than PCs as the primary platform for delivery of digital TV. (Intel is an investor in CNET: The Computer Network.)

    In December of last year, Intel held a major technology briefing spelling out its set-top computer strategy, which is based around low-cost derivatives of the Pentium II processor and related chip technology. The company is now advocating the use of Intel chips to decipher and playback all the myriad digital TV formats--a task which could help Intel remain a key player in emerging markets.

    Intel offered up PBS as an example of how the chipmaker will work to develop new markets.

    The two companies are teaming up to deliver interactive digital television broadcasts. Executives from both companies demonstrated how software technology developed by Intel will be used to offer information about programs--and most importantly for broadcasters and advertisers--information about buying items related to the programming.

    Reuters contributed to this report.