Apple Computer has released the final version of QuickTime 4.0, the latest edition of its all-encompassing cross-platform media playback and authoring software. QuickTime 4.0 is powerful technology, supporting an enormous variety of data formats used for video, audio, images, and other data (including MPEG, Windows AVI, Photoshop images, PNG, and FlashPix) along with a slew of compression and transport technologies. QuickTime 4.0’s most prominent new features involve streaming media such as live broadcasts or pre-recorded audio and video. Apple is seeking to extend QuickTime’s dominance in digital media production to real-time Internet-based content, competing against the likes of RealNetworks’ well established RealPlayer and Microsoft’s Media Player. QuickTime 4.0’s most visible new features, however, revolve around radically redesigned playback and application interfaces designed to look like consumer electronic devices. Apple’s QuickTime 4.0 announcement claims the new controls are "stunning" and "intuitive"; nonetheless, the revised look and feel has been drawing consistent criticism – see Isys Information Architect’s evaluation of the QuickTime Player interface for a particularly cogent example.
QuickTime 4.0 is available for free via the Internet for both Mac OS and Windows; on the Mac OS, QuickTime 4.0 requires a 68020 or better processor running System 7.1 or higher, although several features operate only on PowerPC-based systems. The installer itself is a scant 380K, but then you must choose which QuickTime components you wish to install, with typical selections entailing another 6 to 15 MB of downloaded data. QuickTime Pro 4.0, which adds authoring, editing, export, and enhanced playback capabilities, is available from Apple for $30. If you previously purchased QuickTime Pro 3, you can upgrade to QuickTime Pro 4.0 free of charge.