Is This Thing On? (11/9/99)

Well, as far as Apple-related speeches go, the QuickTime Live one was pretty far down there on the pre-event hype list. A presentation specially scheduled for the press and starring Steve Jobs would rate a 9 or 10, because it's got Steve and it's virtually guaranteed to be chock-full of new product announcements and other surprises. A Stevenote at a major Mac conference, on the other hand, might be an 8 or a 9, depending on the rumors swirling beforehand-- it's still got Steve, and new products are a pretty safe bet, but the conference itself would happen whether or not Apple had anything new to reveal, so there's always the slight risk of a snoozer. But the QuickTime Live keynote? That's maybe a 3 at best. QuickTime Live deals "only" with Apple's digital media architecture, so nobody could expect any new hardware. And instead of Steve, we got Phil Schiller, the Apple marketing guy whom we've branded as Steve's "keynote sidekick," AKA "Steve Lite." It just wasn't all that much to get excited about beforehand.

Which means that we didn't even bother to tune in to watch Phil's keynote, and as it turns out, it appears that we may have made a mistake. Judging by all the press releases Apple shot out after the event, things are really jumping in the world of QuickTime right now. First of all, Apple's enlisted yet more prime content providers for QuickTime TV, most notably CNN. Finally, web surfers at's Videoselect page won't be faced with only RealVideo and Windows Media choices; QuickTime's there too, and ready to stream. And in addition to the "serious" content provided by CNN and the Financial Times, the more frivolous among you will rejoice with us as QTV also adds entertainment programming from MTV, Nickelodeon, and TV Land. There's also, which brings with it "50 radio stations and five TV stations in France." (We know what some of you are thinking: "How many channels do the French need to watch Jerry Lewis movies and listen to accordion music?" Shame on you.) And of course there were also the technology previews of QuickTime 4.1 and Streaming Server 2.0. All in all, it sounds like Phil had good material and delivered it passably well.

Until the end, that is. See, what we really regret missing was the hilarity that ensued after Phil left the stage. Due to a technical glitch, there was no sound playing from the QuickTime movie on the monitors as people prepared to depart, and according to MacNN, apparently Phil made what can only be described as a rookie mistake: he left his microphone on when he got backstage. So instead of the soundtrack for the movie, the keynote audience was treated to Phil's frustrated mutterings of "Where's the sound?" Funny, right? And the situation worsened as Phil told the techs to start the movie over from the beginning, prompting him to utter "naughty words" that were audible to the entire audience. Leave it to Apple to drag out such a tired, old sitcom plot device like the "unintentional microphone" gag and still manage to make it entertaining. Though we strongly doubt that the "extra commentary" that Phil gave us will make it into the video-on-demand webcast of the event...

SceneLink (1900)
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The above scene was taken from the 11/9/99 episode:

November 9, 1999: Those who tuned in to watch Phil Schiller's QuickTime Live keynote were treated to a slew of new QuickTime developments-- and a bit of PG-13 slapstick. Oh, Phil... Meanwhile, a head-to-head real-world applications test shows that megahertz isn't everything, and Salomon Smith Barney downgrades Apple's stock, claiming that it's "overvalued"...

Other scenes from that episode:

  • 1901: Two Against One (11/9/99)   You know, when it comes to relative computer speeds, it's tough to know whom to believe, especially when you're talking about cross-platform comparisons. On the one side you've got Apple's marketing department, making claims that sometimes seem a little shifty: yes, the G3 is "up to twice as fast as the fastest Pentium II"-- as long as you're looking at Bytemarks instead of real-world performance...

  • 1902: Downgrade THIS, Buddy (11/9/99)   Leave it to one of those snooty analysts to spoil the party. "Let's see," said a number-cruncher at Salomon Smith Barney. "Apple's completely refreshed all four quadrants of its product line in only six months...

Or view the entire episode as originally broadcast...

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