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Apple boasts 25 million QuickTime 6 downloads

More than 25 million copies of the latest version of Apple Computer's free QuickTime media player have been downloaded by users in the 100 days since the product was launched, according to Apple.

The demand for the QuickTime 6 media player is a boon for the MPEG-4 (Moving Picture Experts Group) file format on which it is based, Apple said.

While comparable figures were not available for the previous release, QuickTime 5, about 130 million users downloaded the software during its first year of availability.

"It's a strong showing for QuickTime, but the real story is the establishment of MPEG-4 as a legitimate choice of media format," said Ryan Jones, an analyst with Yankee Group.

MPEG-4 is the latest incarnation of the digital compression and decompression technology used to deliver audio and video files over the Internet. A previous version of the technology spawned the MP3, or MPEG-1 Layer 3, file format made popular by file-sharing programs like Napster and Gnutella.

MPEG-4 is backed by 130 companies, representing products as diverse as mobile phones, microprocessors and PC software. However, it is QuickTime that is promoting the technology most prominently, according to Apple and some analysts.

"QuickTime has introduced MPEG-4 into the Hollywood production community and that's an important step for it as a standard," Jones said.

The QuickTime 6 media player, which can play music and videos on Macintosh computers as well as Windows PCs, competes against popular media players from Microsoft and RealNetworks. Both these companies focus on proprietary file formats and only support MPEG-4 on their respective media players through plug-in software provided by third-party vendors.

Microsoft has also focused on developing DRM (Digital Rights Management) capabilities with its digital media technologies, an area that Apple and the MPEG-4 standards group has steered clear of so far. Microsoft has built a number of copy protection features into its Windows Media technology that allow content producers to control how their media is played or reproduced by end users.

While MPEG-4 has a layer of security there are no DRM features baked into the file format, according to Frank Casanova, director of QuickTime marketing at Apple. However, Casanova noted that it hasn't been a problem for Apple.

A company called DMod makes available software that allows content producers to add DRM capabilities to QuickTime file so they can be delivered in a pay-per-view fashion. Additionally, as MPEG-4 is developed further, "you can expect to see [DRM] over time based on the standard," Casanova said.

Apple also said this week that 200,000 versions of its QuickTime Streaming Server and an open source version of that software, called the Darwin Streaming Server, have been downloaded. This software allows a Web site operator to host streaming video that is delivered to users over the Internet.

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