I’m dreaming of a QuickTime 3 Xmas

The application we have all been waiting for, QuickTime 3, has arrived just in time for Christmas. Sutherland Lyall gives us the low-down and other Apple news

The thing everyone in my trade wanted for Christmas was to see a working version of QuickTime 3. And, right on cue, here it is, in its first public beta version, as a 5MB or so file on http://quicktime.apple.com/preview/ – although the magazines will right now be twisting arms at disk-pressing formes to get it on their January cover disks.

The download includes QuickTime 3.0, Movie-Player 3.0, QuickTime VR 2.1, QuickTime Plug-In 2.0, QuickTime MPEG Extension 1.0.2 and Sound Manager 3.3. It’s cross-platform – remarkably so, according to one US magazine – and can cope with a wide number of file formats, including most PC types. We’ll have to wait until software houses re-gear their apps for version 3’s new features, but we do know that Macromedia has been champing at the bit to get out its version 3-aware video editing app Final Cut.

There, say Mac pundits, is the rub. QuickTime has become the de facto multimedia standard for both Macs and PCs. Apple gives it away. There’s no obvious commercial virtue in making it too available to the denizens of the Evil Empire. When Steve Jobs pulled the rug from under the lively Apple clone market there was talk of Fortress Apple making QuickTime 3 an Apple-only app or at least bringing out the Windows version months later. Happily for Windows-based designers, this hasn’t happened. You have to sympathise with the Apple people who are learning the grim reality of having to pay tribute to the might of the Microsoft Empire. Must be like those isolated monks on the men-only Mt Athos peninsular having to install ladies loos in the new all-night discos.

At the beginning of January Steve Jobs is to address the faithful at the San Francisco Macworld show. Last time he assembled them it was to offer the deeply unexciting news that Apple was about to ape PC techniques for flogging kit. This time will it be the name of the new Apple boss – if Jobs isn’t that already. And will Larry Ellison join Bill Gates and Prince Alwaleed bin Talal in putting lots of cash into Apple? And will that mean the serious beginning of the Apple Net PC production line? In fact, the most interesting non-QuickTime 3 Apple news is the fact that the dingbats at Apple have now decided to allow ordinary non-educational mortals to buy the Newton-based junior clamshell: the eMate. You simply ring the Sunday Times and wave a cheque for 500-600.

Talk of power of the press: it was way back in April of this year that I wondered what lay behind the idea of only flogging it to schools, especially when most schools are seriously strapped for cash and when any portable computer, let alone this lively little semi-transparent jobbie, represented an obvious temptation for your local friendly burglar.

At the time, I urged you all to became school governors because this neat little machine looked like a tasty morsel. Now it would make someone a great Christmas present.

And what of the new year? Apple evangelists are already thronging the streets with good tidings, all thoughts of such grave matters as the Great Clone Betrayal long buried. But Brit designers need to consult their own interests. Lurking out there is the exponential growth of the less expensive, loose-fit NT graphics platform. Remember that all computers come with rapid obsolescence built in, Apple as bad as the rest of them. Finally, computers are only tools.

You can e-mail Sutherland Lyall on Lyall@dircon.co.uk

Designer’s dictionary

WIF (Wavelet image file)

The graphics boffin’s eternal search is for ways of compressing image files, especially 3D files, without losing too much detail. A couple of months ago we had trixels, now it’s wavelet compression. Wavelet? If you did a maths degree recently you should have come across wavelets. They are a way of analysing a signal using base functions which are localised in time and frequency. The exciting thing is that WIF files are claimed to keep image quality at high levels of compression and, because they are mathematical representations of the image, the files are quite small. That means they download off the Web faster, you are more likely to stay with the website and you can incorporate full-screen images in your page design. Claimed compression ratios range from 20:1 to 300:1. As with trixels the market is the ultimate decider about whether people buy the idea and the product. Have a look at Compression Engines site at www.cengines.com (remember you only need to type ‘cengines’ in your Location field in Netscape) and type in ‘wavelet compression’ in your favourite search engine.

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