Apple has crossed swords with Microsoft and Realnetworks, releasing its new version of Quicktime multimedia that enables consumers to receive audio and video programming over the Internet.
Distributing multimedia over the Internet is one of the hottest battles in the industry right now. Last week Microsoft released MS Audio 4.0 at a glitzy music business party in LA. Realnetworks has been pushing its Realplayer software and IBM and Sony have announced that they will make their competing systems compatible.
MP3 is an increasingly popular medium, particularly amongst teenagers, for downloading music from the Internet. But its lack of built in copyright protection has made the record industry see red as it is wide open to piracy.
So the race is on to find a secure medium that will satisfy heavyweight record labels that the Internet is a secure way of distributing music.
Apple has posted a beta version of the Quicktime 4.0 client on its site - a final Pro Version of the client should ship in July, priced at $29.95 in the US.
Apple also plans to offer a version of the software that will enable servers running the Mac OS X operating system to distribute multimedia content on the Internet.
The software will have the support of a number of hardware manufacturers including Cisco, IBM, Silicicon Graphics and Sun Microsystems.
The server software is based around Apple's Quicktime 4.0 format and supports up to 1,000 simultaneous video streams. It can play back a wide variety of multimedia formats including MP3, Macromedia Flash, Flashpix, avi and wav files, according to Apple. Industry analysts believe that Apple will have a major advantage in the market for Internet multimedia software, especially movies, as much of the multimedia material already offered on line is originally created in the Quicktime format.
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