A lot of people are going to start flaring their arms up about Flash adding H.264 today. I think it’s a good thing, you should all head to Adobe.com and update right now. Competition is always good… well, except when your “competitor” sends you a letter saying that if you don’t pull the plug on your media platform, they’ll stop making Office for your computers.
But, this is not a harbinger of things to come for QuickTime. A lot of people don’t understand where QuickTime came from, and it’s one thing that frustrates me in educating people about the platform.
Many people think QuickTime was ported to Windows to support iTunes and fuel sales of iPod… wrong, wrong, oh, and wrong. QuickTime was ported to Windows long before iTunes, long before Steve Jobs returned to the company. But the QuickTime today is far different from the QuickTime of old.
True, QuickTime today favors H.264… that’s no shocker since H.264 is based heavily on what? QuickTime. H.264 is a superset of MPEG-4, which was based on QuickTime from early on in its development.
Today, QuickTime is vital to several revenue streams for Apple. It is an integral component of Mac OS X, on iPod, iPhone, Apple TV, Mac, and Windows. iTunes wouldn’t run without it… and iTunes would have taken much longer to port to Windows (see above about QuickTime pre-dating iTunes by the better part of a decade). In fact, had Apple not had QuickTime ready-to-go on Windows, iTunes could have missed its window for success in the digital media vending market, and iPod would be just one player in a crowd of PMPs.
Can you imagine a world where Zune is the dominant media player? Had QuickTime not existing on both PC and Mac, it’s quite likely that could have happened.
Now you know the history of QuickTime, H.264, and MPEG-4 (well, enough for today). So, where’s it headed. Well, nowhere and everywhere. QuickTime is fully integrated into everything Apple touches (no pun intended). Apple isn’t going to deprecate it or replace it… and Apple and Adobe being fierce rivals will likely only motivate Apple to inspire the next generation of video formats. What will those formats be? I have no idea.
I still suspect that a YouTube deal is not far off, where if folks have QuickTime installed, the H.264 stream will play in QuickTime, instead of in Adobe Flash. That may have been delayed/derailed by YouTube’s advertising plans, but I still see it happening down the road.
As to formats… I’m smart enough to not predict that. Many thought we were done with MPEG-4 for a long time, then H.264 landed. But either way, H.264 flash may try to eat away at the share of sites embedding QuickTime streams, but I doubt it will have much effect in terms of market share. You still need QuickTime for iTunes, and iTunes is one of the most, if not the most popular third-party application for Windows, and is bundled with every Mac.
Now if they could just get it on Linux… transmission interrupted.