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While the iPhone and Q1 results fill the headlines, Apple made a tiny bit of news that went unnoticed before last week’s Mac Expo. In a ceremony at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the National Television Academy gave Apple a technology and engineering Emmy award for its QuickTime technology. Apple shared the Streaming Media Architectures and Components award with Adobe, Microsoft, and RealNetworks.
“We were thrilled that they [the NTA] recognized the work that we have done on behalf of the standards community,” said Frank Casanova in an interview yesterday afternoon. Casanova is Apple’s Senior Director for Mac OS X Audio and Video, which includes QuickTime development. “They recognize the work we continue to do to promote H.264 and MPEG-4.”
MPEG-4 is an industry standard for compressing video and audio. H.264 is a video codec that’s part of the MPEG-4 standard, and is also at the heart of QuickTime. H.264 is used with video from Apple’s iTunes Store, in iChat AV’s video conferencing, and is a key software component of Apple’s upcoming Apple TV.
Casanova said that MPEG-4 and H.264 give Apple an advantage. “What really sets us apart from all the other guys [Adobe’s Flash, RealNetwork’s RealPlayer, Microsoft’s Windows Media], is that we’ve adopted a set of beliefs around open industry standards, while the other guys have stuck to their guns using in-house proprietary technologies.
“The ISO and the MPEG guys could’ve gone anywhere to get their file format. They could’ve created a brand new one, but they came to us,” said Casanova. “They asked us if they could use QuickTime’s file format as the basis for the MPEG standard. Clearly, they respected the work we have done, and they respected the fact that we’ve never changed the file format. None of the other architectures can say that.”
Casanova also pointed out the use of H.264 with Blu-ray and HD DVD video to validate Apple’s commitment. Blu-ray and HD DVD content creators can choose from different codec to use to encode video, but H.264 encoding is mandatory. And Blu-ray and HD DVD set top players are required to have H.264 support.
“If you zoom back away from Apple, H.264 is at the center of what’s going to be the next generation broadcast universe,” said Casanova. Broadcasters in Japan, Europe, and the U.S. have announced that H.264 is their next generation codec that will replace MPEG-2, the current workhorse.”
Casanova also told Mac|Life about the following QuickTime statistics:
• One million copies of QuickTime are distributed through Apple’s Web site daily (“Ninety-five percent are for the PC, because there are an awful lot of [PCs] out there,” said Casanova).
• Since QuickTime 7 was released less than two years ago, a half a billion copies of have been distributed.
• Apple recorded 2.2 million streams of the Steve Jobs Mac Expo 2007 keynote in the first 24 hours alone. According to Casanova, Apple “added a million new views per day of this webcast for the following four or five days.”