Play Windows Media files with QuickTime Player (free!)

Today, two more signs of the forthcoming apocolypse.

(1) Apple announces the first Macs with Intel Inside, as Steve rubs “man, can you believe how friggin’ **slooow** the PowerPC was?” salt into our collective wounds several times during the keynote. (Wouldn’t want to be [Kottke]( “Doh!”) right now…)

(2) With somewhat less fanfare, Microsoft delivers **Windows Media Components for QuickTime**.

Microsoft had a little — okay, a lot of — help from [Telestream][Telestream]. Windows Media Components for QuickTime looks to be their Flip4Mac WMV product re-branded, which is A Good Thing. It appears to support every Windows Media video and audio format you could ask for (even the latest Windows Media Video 9 Advanced Profile.)

There’s always a catch, and in this case it’s that encoding will cost you. Specifically, anywhere from $49-179 depending on whether you need to be able to create your own profiles, encode to HD, etc.

Kevin Unangst, director of the Windows Digital Media Division at Microsoft, had this to say:

> Consumers and content professionals are demanding great ways to view Windows Media content on the Macintosh using the platform and tools they know.

Translation: “Um, Mac users hate our player.”

> The Windows Media Components for QuickTime, powered by Telestream’s Flip4Mac technology provide this important capability and live up to Telestream’s reputation for outstanding media solutions.

Translation: “It’s not that important to us *personally* (otherwise we’d have done it years ago), but luckily Telestream was happy to play in exchange for a little co-marketing love.”

Since these are QuickTime components, Windows Media files will be usable not only in QuickTime Player, but in **any** properly-written QuickTime-savvy software.

* [Windows Media for QuickTime][Windows Media for QuickTime]

[Windows Media for QuickTime]: (Get Windows Media Components for QuickTime)

Windows Media Encoder 9 users: Read Me

If you do Windows Media Video 9 or Windows Media Audio 9 encoding, you **need** the Windows Media Format 9.5 SDK.

Although it isn’t documented anywhere that I know of, the SDK includes these very important updates:

* The new [Windows Media Video 9 Advanced Profile]( “Learn more about the WMV9 AP codec”) video codec (which implements the Advanced mode of the proposed [VC-1]( “Learn more about VC-1”) standard)
* Performance and quality improvements for the standard Windows Media Video 9 codec
* Performance improvements for Windows Media Audio 9

You can get them at the link below.

* [Windows Media Encoder 9]( “Get Windows Media Encoder 9”)
* [Windows Media Format 9.5 SDK]( “Get the Windows Media Format 9.5 SDK”)

Next-gen DVD: There can be only one (standard)

The DVD Forum has announced that they’ll be choosing the video codec for the next-generation, high-definition DVD standard (tentatively called HD-DVD) by March. Here are the four options in the running:

AVC Also known as H.264, this is the next MPEG-4 video codec. It was created by The Joint Video Team (JVT), which is a cooperative effort of VCEG (the ITU’s Video Coding Experts Group) and MPEG (the ISO’s Moving Pictures Experts Group).

MPEG-4 Video This option is the Advanced Simple Profile flavor of the current MPEG-4 video codec. It’s not competitive with AVC or Windows Media Video 9

MPEG-2 with “enhancement layer” The current generation of DVD uses MPEG-2. This enhancement to MPEG-2 adds a complementary bitstream that makes it more suitable for HD-DVD.

Windows Media Video 9 This is Microsoft’s proprietary video codec, which is derived from MPEG-4 Video.

The DVD Forum’s technical working group has successfully used all three codecs to encode 9 GB of high-definition test content onto a two-layer DVD at bitrates as low as 7 Mbits/sec.

An anonymous source told EE Times that Windows Media Video 9 “doesn’t stand a chance politically” even though it’s technically adequate, and that many chip vendors believe that AVC will win out over an enhanced MPEG-2. This means that — for the first time — content developers may be able to use the same video codec to target mobile devices, PCs, and consumer electronics.

"Mastering Compression" class

My friend and streaming expert Ben Waggoner will be holding his next two 5-day Mastering Compression classes on June 30 and August 11.

These classes are held on the Stanford University campus. They’re part of Stanford’s Digital Media Academy program, so you get Stanford Continuing Education credits for taking the class — that means that your employer might even pay for them!

If you can’t attend,

  • Digital Media Academy: Mastering Compression
  • Posted in MPEG-4, QuickTime, RealSystem, Streaming, Windows Media, Wireless
  • Movielink to support RealSystem and Windows Media, not MPEG-4

    Movielink has announced that it will use both RealSystem and Windows Media for it’s upcoming video-on-demand services.

    “We wanted as low a hurdle as possible for consumers to be able to get movies through the most widely distributed players, Microsoft and RealNetworks, and the most secure digital rights management technologies,” Ramos said.

    Note that they’re not supporting MPEG-4, probably because no mainstream MPEG-4 player supports DRM. I don’t interpret this as Movielink “turning their back on Apple” (as the author dramatically suggests), but it illustrates that Apple’s non-stance on DRM has a downside for its customers as well.

    Movielink is backed by MGM, Paramount, Sony, Universal and Warner Bros. Interestingly, this means that this deal effectively starves RealNetworks’ content services of movie content. Unless, of course, RealNetworks is giving them everything for free in order to get content for its own service. Hrmmm…

    Windows Media Audio reverse-engineered

    Microsoft’s very-proprietary Windows Media Audio format has been reverse engineered as part of the FFmpeg project. Codecs from the FFmpeg project are licensed under the LGPL and are used by several other projects.

    Now, the only hitch to building Windows Media Audio-compatible players is Microsoft ASF-related patent, which I personally believe is invalid based on prior art. But it seems hopeless for individuals or small companies to challenge it, and not a good business move for larger companies to challenge it. Proprietary formats suck, don’t they?

    NHL/Microsoft deal sticks it to RealNetworks

    Microsoft and the National Hockey League have started a subscription service that will allow fans to search for and watch highlights from the 2002-2003 season. The service is $5 per month or $30 per season, and eventually fans will be able to watch entire games for an extra $3 per game.

    This deal is presumed to be part of a response to RealNetworks’ modest success with their subscription service.

    “It’s a ding at RealNetworks, which with would have all sports’ seasons wrapped up in one subscription service,” said Ryan Jones, analyst at the Yankee Group, a research firm. “Microsoft has been going for the technology side but now is putting more focus on content.”

    Based on RealNetworks’ latest numbers, content is the only thing allowing them to limp along. But it’s clear that Microsoft is going after this space, and has infinitely more money (give or take a few billion) than RealNetworks to do so. RealNetworks may win some battles, but it’s impossible for them to win the war.

    My prediction: AOL/Time Warner buys RealNetworks in 2004 and uses them as their content delivery technology arm. Link