Beta or Not... (4/19/99)

...Here we come. It was a four-press-release day for Apple, as they stormed NAB with 1) Final Cut Pro, a new $999 video editing application that aims higher than Premiere; 2) the QuickTime 4 public beta, which is now available for download; 3) the new open-source QuickTime Streaming Server; and 4) a revamped Public Source License, which addresses concerns some members of the Open Source community had with Apple's original document. Whew. Our cup runneth over. We might come back to Final Cut Pro and the open-source stuff, but what we were really waiting for was the chance-- finally-- to put QuickTime 4 through its paces, beta be damned.

The download went smoothly enough, with the "active installer" only being a couple hundred K or so. Personally, we are not fans of this whole "the installer downloads what it needs as it goes" paradigm; sure, it means people don't have to download stuff they don't plan on installing, but there are still those of us who just feel a lot more comfortable with one big honkin' download that contains everything anyone would ever need and which can be installed without a live Internet connection. Call us traditionalists, call us old fogeys, that's just the way we did things in our day and we liked it. We loved it. Still, we made do. After installing and restarting, we ooohed and aaahed over the spiffy new icons and started screwing around with the new QuickTime Player. Yes, MP3's sound very nice indeed, and yes, the new player looks all futuristic and shiny and stuff, but we have to say, the "Favorites" implementation leaves a lot to be desired. Like, perhaps we're getting senile in our old age, but getting the player to play through a full playlist of favorites seems impossible without manually starting each one as the previous one ends. We just want to cue up a batch of songs and let it run-- it didn't seem like such a strange desire to us at the time, but apparently Apple would classify us as some kind of twisted freaks for wanting such a thing. Oh, well.

The real feature of QuickTime 4, though, is the live streaming. Finally, QuickTime content can be broadcast live over the 'net to any application that supports QuickTime. Apple's got a few demo sites set up so you can give it a whirl yourself. We did-- and, well, we were a tad underwhelmed. Don't get us wrong-- it works, and it works about as well as we could possibly expect given our piddly little 28.8 connection. In fact, it seems to yield slightly less heinous results than when we try to pull in RealVideo, but the symptoms are the same: a postage-stamp-sized smudge of color that occasionally coalesces into something nearly recognizable as a talking head, and sound that starts out mildly intelligible and quickly degenerates into something that sounds like a Cylon from Battlestar Galactica reciting the Gettysburg address while it holds its head upside-down in a bucket of piranha-infested Grape Nehi. Guess we'll have to wait for our cable modem connection before we'll really be blown away by QuickTime Streaming; trying to get video through a 28.8 modem is like trying to suck a 1981 Mercury Bobcat Villager through a soda straw.

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The above scene was taken from the 4/19/99 episode:

April 19, 1999: QuickTime 4 is here-- sort of-- and it's pretty cool, rough edges and all. Meanwhile, Best Buy continues its stubborn refusal to stock iMacs if they have to stock all five flavors, and Apple gets slapped with a $35 million charge, payable to the Beatles' Apple Corps, for the use of the Apple trademark...

Other scenes from that episode:

  • 1474: Best Buy, Worst Attitude (4/19/99)   So much for an almost-timely happy-ending resolution to the whole Best Buy-Apple fracas... Sounds like the peace talks have broken down and things are at a standstill. The history of the relationship between these two is rocky, to say the least; remember, Best Buy was the first national retail chain to be stripped of its Apple-authorized reseller status back during the Great Purge of the Incompetent...

  • 1475: And Your Bird Can Sing (4/19/99)   You can't win 'em all, and neither can Apple. A California state appeals court ruled last week that in the astoundingly long dispute between Apple Computer and Apple Corps (the company founded by the Beatles to distribute their music-- does anyone else remember the halved green apples on the labels of many of John Lennon's records?...

Or view the entire episode as originally broadcast...

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