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Daniel Eran

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Image Inside iTunes: Part III
Microsoft: We hate your baby, please kill it
Microsoft responded to QuickTime's success with announcements for Active Movie and Active X, which planned to do everything QuickTime could do; it would even be cross platform. Microsoft even defined a new Surround Video product to compete with QuickTime VR. It turned out to be almost entirely vaporware, but the false promises did little to displace QuickTime as the architecture for video, music and other multimedia production.

Active Movie and Active X turned into little more than a movie playback system and an API for video games. Later renamed DirectShow and DirectX, it became Windows' architecture for dealing with video and graphics. Failing to deliver on cross platform promises did not slow down Microsoft's advances in the industry, but ignoring the Mac market did allow Apple a home base to continue developing QuickTime.

QuickTime continued to gain support from third parties with the announcement of version 3, which simplified playback within web browsers and offered a way to start Internet playback before the download was complete. This was a direct blow to Microsoft; after initially failing to anticipate the impact of the Internet, Microsoft was now determined to control both the desktop web browser and all Internet servers, particularly the potentially lucrative video streaming market.

Apple senior vice-president Avadis Tevanian Jr. testified during the Microsoft antitrust trials that Microsoft approached them and demanded they drop QuickTime as a content delivery system. According to Tevanian, Apple executive Peter Hoddie asked Microsoft officials, "Are you asking us to kill playback? Are you asking us to knife the baby?" to which Microsoft official Christopher Phillips responded, "Yes, we want you to knife the baby."

Apple continued development on QuickTime despite efforts by Microsoft to use all their resources to obliterate the entire media content and delivery market. Further insult to Microsoft was caused by the ISO's choice of Apple's QuickTime, instead of Microsoft's proposed Advanced Streaming Format, as the architecture behind the developing MPEG-4 standard.

Microsoft responded by announcing Chromeffects, a technology that promised to deliver complex multimedia over low-bandwidth connections. Using HTML, XML, C++, VBScript, and Jscript, developers would turn a web browser into a rippling, 3D space with audio and video playback. A MacWeek article from August of 1998 quoted David Card, an analyst at Jupiter Communications as saying, "[Chromeffects is] cool software, and it's not often I say Microsoft has cool software. Apple doesn't have anything comparable."

By the end of the year, Microsoft had shelved Chromeffects and moved on. Apple jumped decisively into the video streaming, starting 1999 with a promotional film trailer for Star Wars that attracted 6.4 million downloads. In the same year, Apple introduced QuickTime 4, which introduced streaming using standard Internet protocols, and partnered with Akamai to set up a movie trailer download site called QuickTime TV.

Apple's late entry into the streaming server market put it in third place behind the established Real Player and Microsoft's movie player of the week. With really no way to get installed on new PCs beyond voluntary downloads, Apple's movie trailer park was its best chance at distribution. Apple also bundled its software with an array of hundreds of digital cameras. While Apple had the technology, Microsoft controlled the software put on desktops.

Part IV > QuickTime Strikes Back

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