Apple unveils latest QuickTime update

Seeking to enhance QuickTime’s role as a streaming-media standard for the Web, Apple Computer Inc. has announced an update to the multimedia software that adds new scripting features and the ability to automatically insert ads into streaming QuickTime movies.

The company has also signed on new partners for QuickTime TV, the QuickTime-based streaming-media network. Apple made the announcements at its recent QuickTime Live conference in Los Angeles.

QuickTime 4.1, scheduled for delivery early this year, will add support for AppleScript and SMIL; the latter is a scripting language for creating Web-based interactive content. During the conference, Apple product marketing vice-president Phil Schiller demonstrated a SMIL script that ran a QuickTime movie, launched a QuickTime video stream, and opened a Web browser. The automated ad-insertion feature will make it easier to swap video ads in and out of QuickTime movies.

Apple also plans an early-2000 release for a new version of the QuickTime Streaming Server, which enables real-time streaming of media content. The upgrade will include a Playlist function that lets producers automate the sequencing of server content, as well as a password-protection feature for QuickTime movies. The latter function will allow Web producers to charge fees for viewing QuickTime content.

Software developers are also getting into the QuickTime act. Novell Inc. announced that the next version of its caching server will offer full support for QuickTime streaming, allowing users to pause, play, rewind and fast-forward live video and audio streams. The technology is based on Apple’s Darwin Streaming Server, an open-source version of the QuickTime streaming software that developers can freely incorporate into their products.

Meanwhile, Oracle Corp. has announced a product called InterMedia that allows Oracle databases to serve QuickTime content on the Web. QuickTime movies served from an Oracle database will be searchable using Apple’s Sherlock utility.

But Apple’s competition isn’t sitting still. RealNetworks is one of Apple’s two major rivals in the live-streaming arena, with Microsoft the other player. RealNetworks has released beta versions of forthcoming upgrades to its RealPlayer media players for Mac and Windows. New features in the free RealPlayer 7 software include faster start-up time, enhanced media navigation, a resizable presentation window, a caching feature that reduces download time for frequently played content, and a message service that notifies you when new programming is available.