Apple Computer has entered the streaming media battlefield with the release of its QuickTime 4.0 multimedia technology.
"Video is going to be a tremendous strategic thrust at Apple in 1999," said Phil Schiller, Apple's vice president of worldwide marketing.
The product, available in beta form from Apple's Web site now, will compete directly with offerings from RealNetworks and Microsoft. But Apple is trying to stay ahead of the pack by releasing the Darwin Streaming Server software as part of its recent open source strategy. Unlike RealNetworks, which sells its own streaming servers, Apple will potentially benefit from other server vendors adding streaming capabilities to their server software.
"Up until now, you've been tied to two vendors and you didn't have any choice," Schiller said. "[Ours] is a far more robust environment than what Real or Microsoft have."
At the National Association of Broadcasters Conference in Las Vegas, Sun Microsystems, Silicon Graphics, Cisco Systems, and IBM are demonstrating servers that support the Real-time Transport Protocol and Real-time Streaming Protocol developed by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), which is the technology QuickTime is using for its streaming capability. Apple did not know when streaming servers would ship from those vendors.
The QuickTime Streaming Server is included as part of Apple's Mac OS X Server software, and can server 1,000 simultaneous audio and video streams to modem users.
QuickTime 4.0 and QuickTime 4.0 Pro -- the latter featuring authoring capabilities -- are also available as of Monday and include support for Macromedia's Flash vector graphics and animation technology and MP3 audio playback. The QuickTime players have a new user interface and new audio and video compression engines for better media quality.
Users can upgrade to QuickTime 4.0 Pro for $29.99, and QuickTime 3.0 Pro users can upgrade to QuickTime 4.0 Pro for free.
Apple also entered the video editing market on Monday with the release of Final Cut Pro, technology the company bought from Macromedia. The $999 package, which began shipping Monday, enables users to edit, composite, and add effects to video. Video can be easily input into the new Apple G3 computers through use of the FireWire port. The product is built on QuickTime 4.0 and enables users to produce video content through drag-and-drop editing.
"There was a huge hole which was exactly where our creative professionals sat," Schiller said, of the current video editing landscape. "This product has filled that huge gap."
Apple is positioning the video-editing product above Adobe's Premiere product and below higher-end professional offerings.
The minimum system requirements for Final Cut Pro are a Power Mac G3 266-MHz computer (300 MHz required for DV/FireWire input), 128MB of RAM, Mac OS 8.5, and a 6Gb hard drive.