Every year brings new products and new standards to the Mac. How can you keep track without a program or scorecard?
With so many standards, who wins? Not you or me. It’s a jungle out there. You could get hurt figuring it out.
The new standard and winner will be the technology that hides the standards, Mac or Windows.
For example, most of the nearly 60-million people who use iTunes and iPods only know of MP3. That’s a song on your PC or iPod, right?
See what I mean? Most people have no clue what the standards are for media or much of anything else dealing with Macs or PCs or music or movies.
DVD? There’s a bucket of standards that make up a DVD, but the audio and video on a DVD may vary from one movie to another.
High Definition? Blu-Ray HD-DVD? DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD-RW, and I think there’s even a DVD+-R.
Where Apple’s QuickTime media suite (player and underlying technology) helps is by disguising all the standards, both audio and video.
Why does QT hide all those standards? Because you’ll become catatonic trying to figure out what they mean.
How about the audio from Apple’s iTunes Music Store?
That can be MP3, or AAC, or, wait—aren’t there three of four more?
Microsoft doesn’t help much because they stick with their proprietary audio and video formats which don’t play on Apple’s popular iPods or iTunes player.
Apple is about ready to offer a movie download service. OK, I’m all for that, but what format will the movie be?
If the movies are not compressed, each movie file could cost $9.99 and take nine days to download. Movie files are huge, regardless of quality.
That’s not a good thing.
Perhaps Apple is willing to shower us with the blessing of yet another proprietary video standard, highly compressed with high quality and it only works on iTunes and iPods.
Audio and video and electronic standards are there for a reason and the benefits should be obvious. One USB device works on a Mac and often on a Windows PC, too.
Video tape that works in a Sony usually works in a Canon video camera. Compact Flash is, well, the same wherever it’s used (mostly).
A hard disk drive for a PC works just fine in today’s Macs. Apple’s even using the so-called Intel standard in new Macs. The benefits of standardization in some products is obvious.
The costs of complexity are spread out over many buyers which use the same product, perhaps in different ways.
Audio and video on the Mac, the PC, iTunes, iTunes Music Store, and the iPod are more of a collection of standards, all of which play well together in QuickTime (the guts of the iTunes, iPod ecosystem).
Most Mac or Windows users don’t know anything about what’s under the hood and they don’t care so long as it works. To its credit, QuickTime makes most of it work seamlessly.
Until you try to save or export a video. There’s more choices available than I have relatives on the family tree growing back three generations.
The number of ways you can compress or export a video or audio file is mind numbing. Who can remember all those? Is it necessary to have that many so-called standards?
QuickTime wasn’t invented because it’s cool technology looking for a solution.
QuickTime was desperation—the necessity of the mother-of-invention—a need to find a way to gather all the AV standards as a hen gathers chicks.
Don’t even get me started on wireless? My fear is we’re about to go the same route.
There’s 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, and, I think, 802.11n, and maybe one with a z, and a couple more, right?
Technology advances, standards change, winners become ancient tools of bygone years (as in, maybe, two years ago).
One recent rumor has Apple introducing a video streaming Airport Express. Plug it next to your TV, plug in the audio and video, and stream Front Row from your MacBook to the TV.
That’d be cool. I’ll buy one.
Standards of one kind or another cause that technology to work appropriately (I’m going out on the prediction limb, so just work with me on this), but it’s becoming a confusing river for consumers.
The new DVD wars won’t be much different than the old Sony Betamax and VHS wars. Winners and losers. Sony lost, but so did millions of Sony customers.
For now, Apple’s approach of providing a QuickTime layer between the user and the plethora of media standards seems to work in the Mac maker’s favor.
How about video signals? Well, let’s see. There’s old NTSC analog for your TV and VCR, DVI for Macs and PCs, VGA is still around, right? What else?
HDMI promises to bring them altogther in a single hardware interface, ala QuickTime. Tell that to my neighbor who bought a new 32-inch LCD HD TV but forgot to research and check on connectors.
In the end, standards make me dizzy. We need them. We need them hidden, not in public.