Although Apple has considered QuickTime part of the Mac OS for many years, the company has also generated some additional revenue by selling QuickTime Pro for $30. This commercial version of QuickTime enhances the functionality of QuickTime Player by adding capabilities such as full-screen viewing (rather than restricting video to a clunky metal window), basic editing of QuickTime movies, and a variety of export options. Apple makes much of these capabilities and has pushed QuickTime Pro hard with nag dialogs in the free version of QuickTime Player over the years, though they’ve become less frequent in recent versions.
But QuickTime Pro is an odd duck aimed at very separate markets: some people buy it purely to be able to play movies at full screen, some use it to save movies from Web pages, and others rely on its movie editing and exporting capabilities. The one time I sprang for the $30 upgrade – to document how to convert movies exported from iPhoto into fast-start movies for the Web – I was unimpressed with QuickTime Pro’s ease-of-use, a problem exacerbated by a significant lack of documentation. Nonetheless, I presume QuickTime Pro is sufficiently useful to people more serious about video than I, but who don’t wish to pony up for more capable tools.
Nickeled & Dimed — With QuickTime 7, available for Panther and as part of Tiger, however, there’s a catch in the free/pay divide that hasn’t previously appeared. QuickTime Pro keys from QuickTime 6 are no longer honored; you must purchase QuickTime Pro again for QuickTime 7. Apple claims that this is due to QuickTime 7 containing royalty-bearing technologies; in other words, Apple has to pay other companies for each copy of QuickTime Pro, and is thus passing on the cost to you. This has been the case with the last several major versions of QuickTime.
What’s new is that a number of people have been taken aback by this need to pay for QuickTime Pro again because it comes as a surprise after installing Tiger; you’ve just bought Tiger, but as soon as you try to use QuickTime Player for something that requires QuickTime Pro, you learn that you have to spend another $30. Whether or not the charge is warranted by Apple’s need to pay royalties or development efforts (remember that QuickTime Pro isn’t part of Mac OS X, and thus its development costs theoretically need to be paid for in other ways), Apple could have done a better job alerting QuickTime Pro 6 users to the need to upgrade beforehand. Worse, QuickTime Player 7 now displays all the QuickTime Pro-only menu items as disabled, with a PRO badge, which may be a fine way to alert newcomers to the possibilities of QuickTime Pro, but only further irritates existing customers who previously paid for QuickTime Pro 6.
I think Apple has realized the annoyance here, which is why the QuickTime 7.0.1 update now clearly says: "Installation of QuickTime 7 will disable the QuickTime Pro functionality in prior versions of QuickTime, such as QuickTime 5 or QuickTime 6. If you proceed with this installation, you must purchase a new QuickTime 7 Pro key to regain QuickTime Pro functionality. After installation, visit www.apple.com/quicktime to purchase a QuickTime 7 Pro key." At least Apple is informing users ahead of time now; if only they could have done so more obviously with the Tiger upgrade as well.
Also frustrating is the fact that QuickTime 7 moves into the Pro feature set at least one previously free feature from QuickTime 6 – the capability to save a movie viewed in a Web browser through the QuickTime plug-in. Luckily, you can still Control-click the link to such a movie and save it to disk from the contextual menu that appears.
Remembrance of Things Past — I don’t believe you can downgrade to QuickTime 6.5.2 if you’re running Tiger, but those people who have upgraded to QuickTime 7.0 in Mac OS X 10.3.9 Panther can do so with the QuickTime 6.5.2 Reinstaller for Mac, which removes QuickTime 7 and restores 6.5.2. Unfortunately for those who upgraded knowingly to QuickTime 7.0 in the hope that it would improve their QuickTime experience, and then upgraded again to QuickTime 7.0.1, the reinstaller does not currently handle downgrading from 7.0.1. A thread on Apple’s QuickTime discussion board offers some suggestions, however, and if you manage to eradicate QuickTime 7.0.1 manually, you can use the full QuickTime 6.5.2 installer to reinstall. Again, all this works only if you’re still using Panther; Apple nowhere says that QuickTime 6.5.2 will work with Tiger.
If you purchased QuickTime Pro only for its full-screen capabilities, you might check out the open-source MPlayer OS X, the Mac OS X version of the Movie Player for Linux. Along with a full screen option, it features a simple library feature and can reportedly play a variety of formats for which QuickTime lacks codecs.
Making Nice for the Movies — Back in January, at Macworld Expo in San Francisco, Steve Jobs said that 2005 was the year of HD, meaning high-definition video. At the time, he was explicitly referring to new features in iMovie HD, iDVD 5, and Final Cut Express HD, but as the year continues to unfold, with iTunes 4.8 gaining additional capabilities to play video, and it becoming more difficult to copy already viewed video to your hard disk from a Web browser, it seems clear to me that Apple is setting the stage for a major video push later in 2005.
In a situation where Apple is selling downloadable movies via the iTunes Music Store, or letting people watch streaming movies via iTunes, or introducing a video-capable iPod, or using the Mac mini as the centerpiece of a home media theatre, the company has to be able to assure the media moguls of the Content Cartel that their movies will be "safe," whatever that actually means. So although it may seem foolish and petty (and indeed it is) to remove the capability to save a viewed movie to disk in QuickTime 7, I think Apple knows exactly what’s going on and is making such changes to present a better face to the companies who can threaten to withhold their digital content.
If you don’t believe me, just check out the sidebars on the QuickTime Pro page, one of which is entitled "Don’t Steal Movies." It’s a brilliant piece of work that in a few short sentences manages to:
- Plug QuickTime Pro’s capability to save your favorite content to your hard disk
- Imply that saving movies to your disk is equivalent to stealing from the movie studios (seems like a clear case of fair use to me)
- Point to the Creative Commons project as a source for material that you can legally cut, copy, and remix
If that’s not prettying up the place for the movie studios, I don’t know what is. It’s a shame that Apple feels the need to reduce the multimedia capabilities of the Macintosh (a long-running trend with iTunes ever since the launch of the iTunes Music Store) while simultaneously encouraging everyone to become a content creator via iMovie and iDVD and GarageBand. Sooner or later, I fear this inconsistency will come home to roost.