Standards help make the world go round. Unfortunately, standards are not always so standard and don’t always work everywhere.
Take audio and video files on web site pages. Except for Flash files, many audio and video files are created for Windows users, and leave Mac users out in the cold. Enter Flip4Mac. It’s like sticking Windows Media Player in your Mac.
The computer world has a bunch of audio and video player standards. Windows Video Player. RealNetworks. Flash. QuickTime from Apple. Flash, annoying though it is, remains as close to an audio/video standard as we can get. Most Flash files play on Mac and Windows PCs. Mostly.
Apple’s highly touted QuickTime also plays on PCs, though many PC users don’t have it. Thanks to the popularity of the iPod and Apple’s free iTunes/QuickTime combo, QuickTime continues to grow in popularity and usage.
The big daddy of media players still belongs to Microsoft’s Windows. To be fair, Microsoft does have a version of Windows Media Player for the Mac. It was last upgraded sometime in the late 1800s. Or the late 1900s. Or, a long time ago. Microsoft’s dominatrix-like fetish for controlling the behavior of everyone means Mac users won’t see a new Media Player from Microsoft. Ever.
Enter Flip4Mac, the free utility that lets Mac users play Windows Media files, both audio and video, within QuickTime and within a browser window. Guess what? For the most part, Flip4Mac works very well. Did I mention that it’s free?
We’ve reviewed Flip4Mac in years past, and most of us have it installed on our Macs. Or, so I thought. My next door neighbor asked me why she couldn’t play some video files in Safari on her Mac. I took a look and found that she didn’t have Flip4Mac installed, and what she was trying to play were Windows media files. One quick download and installation later, and she was good to go.
That tells me that many Mac users suffer from a media shortage, not able to view or hear Windows Media files on the internet. Flip4Mac eliminates most of that media drought.
What you get with the free Flip4Mac utility is the ability to play Windows Media on your Mac using Apple’s QuickTime technology. Windows files will play in QuickTime and in Safari. But that’s it. The files will play (most of them) but you can’t record or edit as you can using QuickTime.
Telestream offers a lengthy list of Flip4Mac WMV utilities, from the free player to Player Pro, which lets you import, edit and convert Windows media files in QuickTime. In true Windows Vista fashion, there’s a version for everyone. Player Pro, Studio, Studio Pro, and StudioPro HD which, for $179, does everything except have Bill Gates come to your house.
The free player is the basic tool that most of us need. If you’ve encountered audio or video on the internet and can’t play it in your Mac, chances are it’s a Windows Media file, and you need Flip4Mac to play it. Early versions were a bit buggy, but I’ve encountered no issues in the past two upgrades. A new version is available for free download here.
Why are there so many different formats for audio and video files on the internet? What do Microsoft and Apple gain by fomenting their own proprietary “standards” on the world. Microsoft’s file format becomes the defacto standard, because it is used by more computer users than any other.
What about Apple’s QuickTime? In recent years Apple has adopted more of a “standards” approach to media. The AAC file format you download from iTunes Store and play on your Mac and PC and iPod? That’s not proprietary to Apple. It’s a non-Windows standard. Think of it as MP4. The high definition H.264 video files which are so in vogue these days? Sorry, not proprietary from Apple. It’s another international standard Apple has adopted.
So, the fight is on between Microsoft’s defacto standards and the standards adopted by the rest of the world, and the banner is carried by Apple. In the meantime, Mac users can get most of the Windows Media Files, audio and video, to play on their Macs by using the Flip4Mac utility.