TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Mar 00 Online

Volume Number: 16 (2000)
Issue Number: 3
Column Tag: MacTech Online

MacTech Online

by Jeff Clites (

The MP3 Phenomenon

It's nearly impossible today to pick up a magazine or newspaper and avoid seeing an article about MP3s. They're popular and surrounded by legal controversy - all the makings of a good media festival. And if you go to VersionTracker and run a search, you'll quickly find out that the Macintosh community is no more resistant to the craze than anyone else, if you didn't know this already. Hype aside, this is the sort of thing which should grab a developer's attention, because there's a big market for anything which plays, produces, converts, organizes, streams, or finds MP3s.

There's a second reason for Macintosh developers to be excited, beyond the sheer popularity, and that's QuickTime. There are three things which everyone agrees that Apple does like no other company: interfaces, multimedia, and consumer excitement. There's no question that QuickTime is right at the intersection of these strengths (despite the questionable design of the QuickTime 4 Movie Player's interface), and their quite lucrative investment in Akamai is a strong statement of their commitment to be a leader in streaming media.

On the other hand, Apple's direct pursuit of the MP3 market has been weak. QuickTime isn't the best MP3 player around, either in terms of playback quality or features (although the QuickTime 4.1 update improves this somewhat), QuickTime doesn't do MP3 encoding out of the box, and their Movie Player doesn't receive, nor does their QuickTime Streaming Server produce, MP3 audio streams in the popular SHOUTcast format. So what's going on?

There are a couple of ways to read the situation. One is that Apple is merely steering clear of the craze-its momentum is centered in the Windows community, there are legal issues with the distribution of MP3s and copyright violations, and there are licensing fees required for encoders. While this may be true, it's only half of the story. Like many of Apple's winning strategies, this one may center around a single revelation, both obvious and at the same time completely overlooked: the MP3 format is irrelevant. Not digital audio, but the idea that the consumer cares at all about the format of their files, or even what "MP3" stands for. (For the record, it's "MPEG-1 Audio Layer III," not "MPEG 3," which doesn't exist.) What they really care about is quality. The QuickTime Star Wars trailer taught us that-although it was available in a variety of sizes, almost everyone chose the largest, highest quality version, and you can bet that most of them were pulling these multiple megabytes painfully over a modem. The truth is that there are better audio formats than MP3 out there, both in terms of file size and sound quality. (This is of course subjective, but many have high praise for the QDesign Music 2 format, which tends to be used for the audio track of high-quality QuickTime movies.)

This is just speculation, of course, but moving forward consumers will certainly choose to listen to whatever sounds best, and this is also what artists will want to produce. Does this mean that MP3 will vanish as a format? Of course not. What it does mean is that consumers will be best served by products which are codec agnostic, and can adapt to play a variety of formats. Some of the newer MP3 hardware players are supposed to support upgrades to play future formats, and of course QuickTime has always supported multiple formats, because it's a completely modular technology; third parties can easily produce their own compressor and decompressor components. In fact I wouldn't be surprised if some day we have a portable QuickTime player, supporting video as well as audio.

So what does this all mean to the Macintosh developer today? It means that in the short term Apple has provided an opportunity for developers to step in and fill a need. In the long term, it means that the Macintosh can take the lead in the digital audio arena. If you are doing anything in the MP3 arena today, you'd be wise to use QuickTime. If you write your own encoder or decoder, implement it as a QuickTime component, and if you license one, favor one that is implemented this way. Automatically, you'll be able to support other formats that QuickTime currently plays and formats that it will play tomorrow, and you'll be able to extend its capabilities without rewriting the application itself. This will give Macintosh applications (and Windows applications which embrace Apple technologies) a unique ability to keep apace with changes in the industry.

This month I am going to leave you will a relatively small set of links to some key resources. First off is Apple's QuickTime developer site, which contains the key resources you'll need to integrate QuickTime into your products. Second is Fraunhofer, who for better or worse holds patents to key algorithms involved in MP3 compression, and they are enforcing their rights to licensing fees. They have a web page (or a place holder for one) devoted to licensing, and you'll want to acquaint yourself with the issues involved. On a positive note, they do have arguably the highest-quality encoder available, and their place as an originator of the technology shows. They also have a few pages of introductory information about the format. Next on your list should be the MPEG Audio News, a small site which tracks news relevant to the Macintosh, and has several interesting articles, including an introduction to MPEG audio, a review of the QDesign Music codec, an encoder quality comparison, and an interview with Rafael Luebbert, the author of the historic MPecker encoder. For a look at the other formats out there, Terran's Codec Central page has information on a variety of multimedia formats, and the SoundApp site contains a page with a brief explanation of the many formats supported by this application.

Apple - Developer – QuickTime
Fraunhofer IIS-A - Licensing
Fraunhofer IIS-A - Layer-3 Info
MPEG Audio News
Codec Central - Info on Multimedia Codecs and Technologies
SoundApp Formats

Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn't point out icecast. It's an open source streaming audio server launched in January of 1999, and it streams MP3 audio in a format compatible with SHOUTcast, the distributed streaming audio system by Nullsoft, makers of the popular Winamp MP3 player for Windows. Since Apple's Darwin Streaming Server is open source as well, one wonders if some enterprising developer will unify the two technologies. Icecast is under the GNU Public License, so there may be a licensing mismatch there, but that doesn't prevent one from enhancing the Darwin Streaming Server to serve icecast-compatible streams without actually using code from icecast (after all, it was developed without the code to SHOUTcast). After all, we can't let the Linux DJs have all the fun.

Apple - Public Source - Darwin Streaming Server


Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Typinator 6.7 - Speedy and reliable text...
Typinator turbo-charges your typing productivity. Type a little. Typinator does the rest. We've all faced projects that require repetitive typing tasks. With Typinator, you can store commonly used... Read more
Adobe Lightroom 6.2 - Import, develop, a...
Adobe Lightroom is available as part of Adobe Creative Cloud for as little as $9.99/month bundled with Photoshop CC as part of the photography package. Lightroom 6 is also available for purchase as a... Read more
ForeverSave 2.1.4 - Universal auto-save...
ForeverSave auto-saves all documents you're working on while simultaneously doing backup versioning in the background. Lost data can be quickly restored at any time. Losing data, caused by... Read more
VueScan 9.5.27 - Scanner software with a...
VueScan is a scanning program that works with most high-quality flatbed and film scanners to produce scans that have excellent color fidelity and color balance. VueScan is easy to use, and has... Read more
AirPort Utility 6.3.6 - Set up and manag...
Note: Most recent release available only within OS X 10.11 El Capitan update. Use AirPort Utility to set up and manage your Wi-Fi network and AirPort base stations, including AirPort Express, AirPort... Read more
Quicksilver 1.3.1 - Application launcher...
Quicksilver is a light, fast and free Mac application that gives you the power to control your Mac with keystrokes alone. Quicksilver allows you to find what you need quickly and easily, then act... Read more
Tidy Up (Five Users) 4.1.5 - Find duplic...
Tidy Up is a complete duplicate finder and disk-tidiness utility. With Tidy Up you can search for duplicate files and packages by the owner application, content, type, creator, extension, time... Read more
Mellel 3.4.3 - The word processor of cho...
Mellel is the leading word processor for OS X and has been widely considered the industry standard since its inception. Mellel focuses on writers and scholars for technical writing and multilingual... Read more
Skype - Voice-over-internet p...
Skype allows you to talk to friends, family and co-workers across the Internet without the inconvenience of long distance telephone charges. Using peer-to-peer data transmission technology, Skype... Read more
Bookends 12.6.0 - Reference management a...
Bookends is a full-featured bibliography/reference and information-management system for students and professionals. Access the power of Bookends directly from Mellel, Nisus Writer Pro, or MS Word (... Read more

Swords & Crossbones: An Epic Pirate...
Swords & Crossbones: An Epic Pirate Story 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
Camel Up (Games)
Camel Up 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
The Martian: Bring Him Home (Games)
The Martian: Bring Him Home 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Based on the best selling novel and critically acclaimed film, THE MARTIAN tells the story of Astronaut Mark... | Read more »
This Week at 148Apps: September 21-30, 2...
Leap Into Fall With 148Apps How do you know what apps are worth your time and money? Just look to the review team at 148Apps. We sort through the chaos and find the apps you're looking for. The ones we love become Editor’s Choice, standing out above... | Read more »
Tweetbot 4 for Twitter (Social Networki...
Tweetbot 4 for Twitter 4.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Social Networking Price: $4.99, Version: 4.0 (iTunes) Description: *** 50% off for a limited time. *** | Read more »
Mori (Games)
Mori 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Stop, rewind and unwind with Mori. Time is always running, take a moment to take control. Mori is an action puzzle game about infinitely... | Read more »
100 Years' War (Games)
100 Years' War 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $3.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
Tower in the Sky (Games)
Tower in the Sky 0.0.60 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 0.0.60 (iTunes) Description: | Read more »
hocus. (Games)
hocus. 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: New, polished, mind-bending, minimal puzzle game with dozens of levels and extra-ordinary design Features:- Beautifully crafted... | Read more »
Mos Speedrun 2 (Games)
Mos Speedrun 2 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Mos is back, in her biggest and most exciting adventure ever! Wall-jump to victory through 30 mysterious, action packed levels... | Read more »

Price Scanner via

13-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro (refurbished) avai...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pros available for $829, or $270 off the cost of new models. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free: - 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pros... Read more
27-inch 3.2GHz iMac on sale for $1689, save $...
Adorama has the 27″ 3.2GHz iMac on sale for $1689 including free shipping plus NY & NJ sales tax only. Their price is $110 off MSRP. Read more
12-inch Retina MacBooks on sale for up to $12...
B&H Photo has 12″ Retina MacBooks in stock today and on sale for up to $120 off MSRP. B&H will include free shipping, and there is NY sales tax only: - 12″ 1.1GHz Gray Retina MacBook: $1224 $... Read more
Tablets Shaping Up for Growth in 2016 – Strat...
Observing that Apple, Samsung, and Microsoft have refocused what tablet computers can do, market analysis firm Strategy Analytics believes there is immense opportunity for new and replacement sales... Read more
Apple Interbrand’s Number One Most Valuable G...
Apple and Google hold aced #1 and #2 spots respectively in Interbrand’s 2015 Best Global Brands Report, leading all tech brands that now comprise more than a third of the entire rankings value.... Read more
Apple offering refurbished 2015 13-inch Retin...
Apple is offering Certified Refurbished 2015 13″ Retina MacBook Pros for up to $270 (15%) off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free: -... Read more
Apple refurbished 2015 MacBook Airs available...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2015 11″ and 13″ MacBook Airs (the latest models), available for up to $180 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each MacBook, and... Read more
Adobe Photoshop Elements 14 Gets Haze Removal...
The latest iteration of Adobe’s powerful consumer image editing appliction Photoshop Elements 14 analyzes your photo and removes background haze, so your shot looks sharp all the way to the horizon... Read more
Apple refurbished 15-inch Retina MacBook Pros...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2015 15″ Retina MacBook Pros available for up to $380 off the cost of new models. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each model, and shipping is free: - 15″ 2... Read more
21-inch iMacs on sale for up to $120 off MSRP
B&H Photo has 21″ iMacs on sale for up to $100 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY sales tax only: - 21″ 1.4GHz iMac: $1029.99 $70 off - 21″ 2.7GHz iMac: $1229 $70 off - 21″ 2.9GHz iMac: $... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Job Description:SalesSpecialist - Retail Customer Service and SalesTransform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're Read more
Senior Payments Architect - *Apple* Pay - A...
**Job Summary** Apple , Inc. is looking for a highly motivated, innovative and hands-on senior payments architect to join the Apple Pay Engineering team. You will Read more
SW QA Engineer - *Apple* TV - Apple (United...
**Job Summary** The Apple TV team is looking for experienced Quality Assurance Engineers with a passion for delivering first in class home entertainment solutions. **Key Read more
Finance Manager, *Apple* Online Store - App...
…successful global retailer. Innovate and think creatively as a finance partner for the Apple Online Store team. Look ahead and anticipate the needs of your business. Read more
*Apple* Retail for Business Support Supervis...
…is looking for a motivated, outgoing, and creative individual who wants to offer Apple Business Customers an unparalleled customer experience. The Apple Retail for Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.