Apple NEEDS to get it right with QuickTime

I started working on this post quite some time ago. Sadly, it still needs to be written despite my hopes that Apple would get on the ball and do something in response to the massive growth of Flash video. Hell, even M$ is doing something..

By do something, I mean, look at why Flash video is being so heavily used, leverage the great points of QuickTime and get on the ball and start competing.

Many people agree, QuickTime is great. It is powerful, cross-platform (almost), able to be embedded in other apps, has support for a myriad of codecs and so on and so forth.

So, why why why, is Flash a relative newcomer to the space of online video kicking it’s ass? Simply put, it just works and works quickly on the client side. Beyond that, it is damn easy (for anyone with rudimentary Flash skills) to customize the player.

Of course, the quality of Flash video sucks (at least what most sites are using which is Flash Video 7, not 8) but the fact that it just works and that there is generally no wait for a large plugin to load totally overwhelms that.

Here is a quick list off the top of my head that Apple could do with QuickTime that might help:

1) Become the video player of choice for AJAX developers by offering JavaScript hooks into everything (a start would be mouse position and click detection. Also make sure the JavaScript support is fully functional in all browsers on all platforms at all times.)

2) Update and support QuickTime for Java. Make it fully OO, no more forcing Java developers to know how to program using QuickTime’s C API to do anything useful.

3) Leverage QuickTime’s great MPEG-4 support and start supporting MPEG-J.

4) Update and create hooks between the above (JavaScript/QT4J/MPEG-J) and Wired Sprites. Remember, QuickTime had interactive vector graphic capabilities long before Flash ever considered video.

5) Fix the problems with the playback DivX style files (MPEG-4 video, MP3 audio in an AVI container). People love it to use it, would be nice if QuickTime allowed us to play them with out a 3rd party component.

6) Update the QuickTime/Darwin Streaming Server to allow folks to start programming more server side streaming applications (like people are doing with Flash Media Server).

Thanks for listening…

11 thoughts on “Apple NEEDS to get it right with QuickTime”

  1. totally agreed. i would also love to see either a free authoring environment to make interaction easy to develop (because really, who uses livestage pro?). or if it were built in to another app like motion or quartz composer. By the way, have you played with quartz composer yet? Pretty sweet stuff…

  2. Also, why is h.264 software decoding performance so bad compared to other solutions? And why no h.264 hardware acceleration. It’s a joke that Quicktime is so bad given it’s part of the OS. Apple’s goal should be to have the fastest h.264 performance available anywhere. Right now, it’s the slowest.

  3. 5) …”People love it to use it” Huh?

    You should send your suggestions to the appropriate people at Apple. It’s quite possibe that they do not read your blog.

  4. I think Apple should do more to encourage people to use Quicktime VR. It almost has gone by the wayside, if it weren’t for MakeCubic’s support in Mac OS X. In addition, now that Real supports MPEG-4, Apple should push for all video sites to use MPEG-4 instead of a proprietary real format since MPEG-4 is playable in both Quicktime and Realplayer. Apple should work on getting the Microsoft DRMs for Windows Media incorporated into Quicktime.

  5. I think Flash video was a rapid success because it has a design which solves a common problem with web continuous media: it gives you the video stream AND the player to decode it at the same time.
    It’s a “virtual-machine” like approach: you already have the flash virtual machine installed on your computer, when you-tube sends you the stream it also sends you the player/decoder.
    This only way to make a content aggregator sure that everyone view the video stream he wants them to see and the way he wants it to look like.
    A very very similiar technology is the Cortado Java Applet (http://flumotion.com/en/textos.php?id=8) , by Flumotion. The applet gives a Java virtual machine a video player which ALREADY has the video decoders.
    I think Google Video made the big initial mistake to rely on Videolan player/plugin to decode their streams: it was an already know nightmare scenario for both the viewers and the webmasters.
    The viewer: dowload VLC and then sit there in front of a “(“no stream”)” message, when you’re like enough not to have a download-prompt-popup.
    The webmaster: knowing that your surfers out there could see anything and just the opposite according to their OS/Browser/VLC version combination.

    After a few months Google Video switched to Flash, but we already know the story, it was just too late…

    Now, QuickTime.
    I have Linux, so no QuickTime for me.
    I have other players that decode QuickTime encoded .mov, but then again what will happen when I stumble on a web page with a QuickTime stream?
    Will I see a download-prompt popping up? And if so, what about some browsers default pop-up blocker? Will I have to set it for every web site which delivers QT content?
    Will I see a message telling me to click somewhere in order to dowload the plugin (which doesn’t exist)?
    Will I see my several video players relative plugins fight to contend the stream’s decoding?
    Do I have to remove a video player’s plugin libs just to let some other player be authoritative for that encoding/format/container?
    Before answering to all this I have already clicked on the “play” icon rendered on the flash video encoded stream and started watching the video: no need to download plugins, fight with popups,etc.
    The encoder code is sent to my flash player along with the video stream.
    I have just installed flash plugin for Firefox on Linux once (I think a couple of years ago), and then never had to live again the nightmare of configuring an OS player browser scenario for a player (QT) which since the beginning was never designed with the Web in mind. Which is what instead happened to Flash.
    Just my 0.2 Euros.

    BTW: I don’t really think Apple is interested in desktop applications anymore. It’s all about the iPod now.

  6. Apple has largely wasted the last ten years as far as Quicktime for the web is concerned. Technically they could provide a better quicktime player with the sorts of javascript access that AJAX requires but practically, I think the lilelihood of them doing so is about zero. My sense is that the Quicktime design leadership has tunnel vision and are still working on 10 year old design goals.

  7. Good post. I completely agree with your sentiment that Apple needs to do more to compete with Flash. There’s really no reason for Quicktime to fall this far behind. A few comments on your suggestions:

    Re #1: This should be priority one. A recent project involving QT Plugin, Javascript and SMIL left me constantly mumbling to myself, “I wish I had access to such and such”. Clearly, a huge problem for anything beyond basic scripting

    Re #2: As someone who’s done a lot of JMF work in the past (and watched the API wither on the vine), I hope Apple doesn’t follow suit. The QTJ update a year ago was a good sign that there’s stlll interest but haven’t seen anything since so who knows what will happen now.

    Re #3: If Apple is taking the corporate road with MPEG4 (that is, trying to get studio’s to jump on board), then developers are in trouble. As far as I can tell, no studio or production house has any major plans to take full advantage of MPEG4 capabilities. I hope I’m wrong on this. MPEGJ doesn’t seem to be on anyone’s map.

    Re #6: I’m of two minds on this point. On one hand, being able to deploy QTSS and do the app development all in one environment does seem like a nice, convenient setup. On the other hand, it seems that QTSS usually gets deployed within a larger web setup with Apache handling the app support. I guess it would nice to have the flexibility to go either way.

  8. Ahh Ha.. Now I am excited for Mac OS X Leopard: Just saw the Graphics and Media State of the Union from WWDC that introduced the new features for the QuickTime plugin that is going to be released come Leopard.

    They are introducing support for CSS Z-order, transparent rendering, synchronous rendering (allowing you to put graphics over top of the video in the browser) and more JavaScript support (hopefully mouse position).

    Good deal!

  9. I love Apple and it’s products but I have to confess when it comes to user experience, Apple is a big dictator. I agree with your quote on Quick Time but I believe it’s too late for Apple to catch up with Flash. May be Steve needs to stop jumping from one product to the other without finishing the perfection process on those he already has made.

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