Microsoft's freshly-pledged support for the Macintosh does not appear to extend to multimedia.
Although version 2.0 of Apple's QuickTime plug-in has been publicly available for nearly a year, Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.5 for the Mac, launched last week at Macworld Expo, installs the outdated version 1.1.1 of the plug-in, which is dated August 1997. This has the effect of disabling playback of Internet content based on Apple's flagship QuickTime 3, even for users who have QuickTime 3 installed.
Curiously, Microsoft's current media playback software, Windows Media Player, appears to have the same effect on the Windows platform.
Describing Apple's "marriage" with Microsoft in his Macworld keynote last week, Apple interim CEO Steve Jobs said the two companies agreed 99% of the time and disagreed 1%, "usually over multimedia".
QuickTime also featured in Microsoft's antitrust trial last year, when Apple's senior vice president of software engineering, Avadis Tevanian, testified that he and other executives had been pressured by Microsoft to quit the multimedia playback market and concentrate on authoring tools, leaving playback to Microsoft. He also accused Microsoft of trying to "sabotage" QuickTime with features introduced into IE 4 for Windows.
Microsoft denied the claims, depicting Apple as the hardball player and producing evidence that it said showed that the QuickTime problems referred to by Tevanian were due to problems in Apple's installation of QuickTime.
Meanwhile, the local 95bFM Web site (www.95bfm.co.nz) which won the PC World Web Design Awards late last year, has encountered problems with Windows Media Player and QuickTime 3.
The site uses embedded QuickTime 3 sounds and some Windows users have been suffering errors and browser crashes on loading pages.
The exact cause of the problems isn't clear, but @IDG, 95bFM site designer Matt Buchanan and others asked to test the site were only able to reproduce the errors on systems where WMP was installed before QuickTime 3. In such cases, the problems continued even after WMP had been deleted and/or QuickTime 3 installed.
Systems which had not been installed with WMP, or where QuickTime 3 had been installed before WMP, played the files without problems. WMP is billed by Microsoft as playing QuickTime 3 files, it appears not to support several of the audio codecs available to QuickTime 3 and is also incapable of playing QuickTime VR content used in the site.
"As a web developer it's particularly frustrating to have a reliable software technology like QuickTime rendered unusable by yet another attempt by Microsoft to redefine the status quo in browser plug-in technology," says Buchanan.
"There are more than enough browser/platform combinations which have to be checked when launching a new site, without this type of thing to deal with as well."