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Inside Mac OS X Snow Leopard: QuickTime X


Daniel Eran Dilger

As jingle-pundits desperately try to denigrate Snow Leopard as a “Service Pack,” Apple’s new operating system reference release actually expands the reach of the Mac platform in several important and under-reported new directions. Here’s the first in a series looking closer at some of Snow Leopard’s well-known, but often misrepresented or misunderstood features.

Inside Mac OS X Snow Leopard: QuickTime X
Meet QuickTime X

It is commonly reported that Snow Leopard’s new QuickTime X (that’s X for ten, not “ex”) shows full screen movies without the Pro upgrade nag and allows for screen video captures and uploads to YouTube. Yes, those features are nice, but only the tip of the iceberg.

Essentially, Apple has pulled an iMovie 08 here: rather than enhancing features of the current QuickTime 7.x, Apple has replaced it entirely with a new media player app written from the ground up to create a launching pad for a new generation of media-related development. Snow Leopard’s QuickTime X is actually derived from work done to build the iPhone’s mobile optimized, embedded QuickTime playback software.

Also like iMovie 08, the new QuickTime X doesn’t do everything that the previous QuickTime 7.x does, such as providing complex transcoding options, component plugins for installing alternative codecs, or the ability to hint tracks for RTSP streaming via QuickTime Streaming Server. That’s why Apple includes an updated version of the previous QuickTime 7.x player as an optional install in Snow Leopard to handle all of those features.

What QuickTime X does do is add more features that people will actually use regularly, things like automated transcoding and export for sharing content to MobileMe, YouTube, and iTunes as well as full screen and panoramic movie playback, simple trim editing controls, ColorSync support, and screen capture video recording. All with no nagging to buy a Pro version upgrade.

New in QuickTime X

HTTP Live Streaming

But the real potential for QuickTime X relates to HTTP Live Streaming, a new open protocol for dishing out live or on-demand video streams using standard web requests.

If streaming playback were only limited to QuickTime X in Snow Leopard, this might not be that big of a deal, but Apple has lined up support from content delivery networks and already added HTTP Live Streaming to iPhone 3.0.

That means there are already over 45 million mobile clients optimized to view HTTP Live Streaming videos; that installed base also happens to consume a plurality of the world’s mobile web traffic. Add in new QuickTime X clients on the desktop and Apple has a ready-made dominant standing in mobile video streaming.

Apple TV 3.0

What about Apple TV 3.0? There could be more information on that in the coming iPod event on September 9, but it’s safe to say that Apple TV will eventually also offer HTTP Live Streaming on it, too. This will make the device much more “TV like,” in that it will be able to peruse streaming video feeds without requiring an initial progressive download.

Having a cheap, flexible and open protocol for delivering video to millions of iPhone, iPod touch, QuickTime, and Apple TV viewers will democratize live and on-demand video publishing just like podcasting has, enabling anyone to set up live feeds of events without needing a specialized RTSP streaming server.

Having a cheap playback appliance that makes it easy to view these feeds on your TV should definitely help Apple TV gain traction, particularly once Apple lowers its price again. But HTTP Live Streaming will also benefit PC users in general, including Linux users as the new protocol is entirely based on open standards and can be implemented using open software. That will help erase the efforts to force video content into proprietary formats like WMV that only work on Windows.

The QuickTime X Foundation

Snow Leopard’s new QuickTime X dusts off the company’s now nearly twenty year old QuickTime technology portfolio and implements Mac OS X’s media capabilities using new code that is both fluent in 64-bit Cocoa as well as GPU-savvy on the latest generation Macs using NVIDIA’s 9400M.

In the future, Apple will flesh out QuickTime X to incorporate editing and plugin features currently only available in the previous 7.x version, much as the company incrementally transitioned from 68k or PowerPC chips, or from the classic Mac OS to Mac OS X, or from Carbon to Cocoa, each time using a temporary bridge. This transition will also impact Apple’s Final Cut Studio suite, which is currently tied to the old QuickTime, Carbon, and 32-bit code.

Apple’s QuickTime role is therefore more than just as a platform developer; it’s also a major client application developer. This will force the company to make QuickTime X a practical, developer-friendly, and capable technology in contrast to the complex and arcane PowerTalk and QuickDraw GX it tried to foist upon developers back in the early 90s.

Up next: everybody knows Snow Leopard delivers new 64-bit features, but what’s new about 64-bits, why does it matter, which Macs will benefit, and where does that take the Mac platform in the future? Inside Mac OS X Snow Leopard: 64-bits will examine.

Snow Leopard Server (Developer Reference)

Daniel Eran Dilger is the author of “Snow Leopard Server (Developer Reference),” a new book from Wiley available now for pre-order at a special price from Amazon.

  • stefn

    All right! Daniel at his best? Let it rip!

  • stormj

    The fact that “service pack” is the best slam the anti-fanboys can come up with betrays the depths to which they’ll go. Pot/kettle, etc.

  • John E

    ok, i believe that HTTP Live Streaming is really important for the future. i just need a fuller explanation. apple has being using the H264 open standard for web video/movie downloads. why is HTTP LS better than that? or will it be used differently? meanwhile, Flash and Silverlight are the two proprietary systems now being used widely. What are HTTP LS’s advantages compared to them? and Silverlight in particular is designed to implement DRM, which we know the content owners consider to be crucial (e.g., the 2008 Olympics). how does HTTP LS support DRM?

    more info appreciated.

  • Jesse

    Silverlight is used widely? I know they’ve scored a couple high-profile websites, but I flat-out never see it anywhere else. I don’t see how it deserves to be uttered in the same breath as Flash.

  • http://blog.cytv.com cy_starkman

    @ Jesse if for no other reason than they are both proprietary attempts to lock up a market.

    @ Dan, can you shed some light on some of the other Pro features, in particular for me is the presentation mode, where you can direct output to another monitor which is hugely useful. Perhaps does the Q7 installation give these to you still anyway…

  • http://blog.cytv.com cy_starkman

    Oh yeah…

    Also Dan. Since you have made a fine book for developers on Snowy Server… Can you also give us a surgical analysis on it.

    I really want to know about

    – The missing 10CAL license version
    – Address Book Server, what are the issues
    – iPhone as a client and the Mobile Gateway
    – Is Kerberos actually stable and useful
    – Is the spotlight bug for searching server managed drives fixed
    – Is the Wide Area Bonjour actually doing anything yet
    – Is there better monitoring/feedback for server apps, mail etc…
    – Can you easily and reliably move the location of iCal and other Server Apps file stores without hacking
    – Can Time Machine now manage network wide backups to a Time Capsule
    – Are the VPN conflicts between Server and Time Capsule fixed
    – Is it more reliable delivering services to Mac clients over a Wireless connection, and does the authentication via Kerberos not fall over the second a wireless connection drops
    – Does the Software Update Server actually download only recent updates instead of ALL regardless and can its file store be moved and managed properly
    – Are Server Admin and Workgroup Manager improved in regard to UI functionality and description
    – Is the help documentation actually complete as opposed to just telling you what you can already see and offering nothing, often not even one extra word to the in Application UI text.
    – Is directory utility improved between Snowy Client and Server
    – Is the issue with having to reinstall the whole Server if you want to change your primary domain fixed (or endure great suffering)
    – Does the Mail Server’s spam and virus options work and download updates yet or does it still just generate lots of errors
    – Does the connected clients display actually update in a useful manner
    – Can you reconnect a user to their internal blog/web calendar or is it still all lost if there is a Kerberos problem and you lose the user list
    – Can you properly back up the users/groups in case of the feared Kerberos DB failure

    Those are some examples of my experience using Leopard Server, backed up by reading the woe of others trying to solve same problems.

    I suppose, the shorter question is, does it actually work yet, or is it still broken requiring hacking just to make it go.

  • ShabbaRanks

    I enjoyed this article on Ars.

    Made me laugh more than once in a very nerdy way.

  • http://www.adviespraktijk.info Berend Schotanus

    “What about Apple TV 3.0? […] [HTTP live streaming] will democratize live and on-demand video publishing”

    This could mean a break through of internet in the living room and a challenge to the current market positions of cable TV companies. I can’t wait.

  • http://themacadvocate.com TheMacAdvocate

    Quicktime X + big-ass datacenter + AppleTV 3.0 + iTMS = content availability and distribution redefined.

  • http://crankyoldnutcase.blogspot.com/ The Mad Hatter

    Daniel, have you heard about the NVidia chip problems? Rumor I heard is that Apple will be adopting ATI. I don’t know if it’s true, I’m waiting to see what happens at the next refresh (since I plan on buying a new MacBook Pro 13″).

  • http://crankyoldnutcase.blogspot.com/ The Mad Hatter

    meanwhile, Flash and Silverlight are the two proprietary systems now being used widely

    Silverlight? Used widely? Where? The only places that adopt Silverlight adopted are the places that Microsoft pays to adopt it. As to DRM, I think that even the MPAA is starting to realize that DRM isn’t a bright idea.

  • JohnWatkins

    “Silverlight? Used widely? Where?”
    The big place is NetFlicks. But I have also noticed it on some sports related web sites. Flash is practically ubiquitous though (and generally provides crappy user experience.)

  • http://crankyoldnutcase.blogspot.com/ The Mad Hatter

    Don’t watch sports (on the computer anyway, Hockey Night in Canada is damned close to a religion here). Don’t watch movies on the computer either.

    And even if I did, I wouldn’t use SilverBlight, instead I’d complain to the site using it.