Apple, Microsoft vie to set standard multimedia framework

Apple and Microsoft are in a race to develop a comprehensive multimedia framework for the Internet that would link multimedia standards with their own desktop multimedia API sets.

Apple and Microsoft are in a race to develop a comprehensive multimedia framework for the Internet that would link multimedia standards with their own desktop multimedia API sets. Apple intends to unify its various desktop multimedia technologies -- including QuickTime, QuickTime Conferencing, QuickTime VR and QuickDraw 3D -- and Internet standards into a single, unifying architecture. This will make it possible for ISVs to write a single multimedia application that can reside on the Internet or on the desktop and be compatible with Apple's different multimedia APIs and Web-oriented technologies, such as Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML), HTML, and Apple's 3D MetaFile format, Apple executives say.

"What we're doing is to integrate our multimedia API environment into a consistent architecture for our development partners," says Carlos Montalvo, director of the Intermedia Group and acting vice-president of Apple. To do that, Apple intends to create its own QuickTime Media Layer (QTML), designed to provide the same cross-platform standard for multimedia types as HTML did for text-based data. QTML will provide an overall development environment that supports and integrates the QuickTime and QuickDraw technologies, Apple executives says.

Microsoft is also moving in that direction, says Kevin Dallas, Microsoft's DirectX marketing manager for the Internet platform and tools division. Although Direct 3D isn't shipping yet, Microsoft has developed an ActiveX component designed to give VRML-compliant Web-based applications access to its Direct 3D API for better graphics performance on the desktop. Additional ActiveX components or wrappers will be needed to link Web technologies to other DirectX APIs, Dallas says. "We want our third-party developers to write the other wrappers," Dallas says.

Java will offer Apple the same type of glue technology between its different multimedia components as ActiveX will give Microsoft, says Gina Centoni, Apple's OpenDoc product line manager. "Developers needed a fast, efficient way of accessing the different API architectures in a cross-platform environment, and Java is an excellent tool for that," Centoni says.

Apple's decision to go public with QTML coincides with its introduction of QuickDraw 1.5 for Windows 95 and Windows NT, an important component if Apple intends to become the Internet standard for multimedia data. "If Apple delivers a rich set of functionality for Windows, then it's in a position to set an industrywide standard ahead of Microsoft," says Richard Doherty, founder of the market research company Envisioneering, in Seaford, New York.

Apple is counting on its cross-platform capabilities to give it a leg up over Microsoft's similar efforts. "This is incredibly important, because Apple has a chance to set a true standard," says Guerrino De Luca, president of Apple's Claris software subsidiary.

Apple's multimedia, multiplatform strategy

-- Use a common containment architecture for QuickDraw 3D, QuickTime VR, and QuickTime

-- Use a standard way of implementing animation across all technologies

-- Add the architecture to support consistent object containment model

-- Develop AppleScript for Java program-ming environment

-- Use HyperCard to add event-based programming to QuickTime 3.0

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