TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Mar 00 Online

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

MacTech Online

by Jeff Clites (online@mactech.com)

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
http://developer.apple.com/quicktime/
Fraunhofer IIS-A - Licensing
http://iis.fhg.de/amm/legal/
Fraunhofer IIS-A - Layer-3 Info
http://www.iis.fhg.de/amm/techinf/layer3/
MPEG Audio News
http://www.raum.com/mpeg/
Codec Central - Info on Multimedia Codecs and Technologies
http://www.terran.com/CodecCentral/
SoundApp Formats
http://www-cs-students.stanford.edu/~franke/SoundApp/formats.html

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.

icecast
http://icecast.org
Apple - Public Source - Darwin Streaming Server
http://www.publicsource.apple.com//projects/streaming/

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Black Hole Joyrider (Games)
Black Hole Joyrider 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Guide your spacecraft through the gravity well of a powerful black hole using only your retro-thrusters and dwindling fuel... | Read more »
My Koi (Games)
My Koi 1.0 Device: iOS iPhone Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: My Koi is a beautiful and relaxing fish pond app. Customise and name each fish. Feed them daily. Watch them grow. Collect new fish.... | Read more »
Never Gone (Games)
Never Gone 1.0.2 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0.2 (iTunes) Description: ###IMPPORTANT### Never Gone's HD art resources require devices with more than 1GB RAM, so please note that iPhone 4/4s, iPad 2/... | Read more »
INKS. (Games)
INKS. 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $1.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: From the makers of BAFTA-winning Lumino City comes INKS. INKS updates pinball for a new generation. It combines the joy of pinball with... | Read more »
How to maximise your profits in Bakery B...
Running a bakery can be an expensive venture. You’ll need to continuously upgrade your oven, your kitchen supplies, and even your ingredients to keep customers happy. Most of these renovations in Bakery Blitz cost a pretty penny, but we have a few... | Read more »
How to manage your time in Bakery Blitz
It can be tricky, especially when you risk burning your kitchen to the ground if you forget a cake in the oven, so make sure to use these time management tricks to keep your bakery running smoothly. Don’t collect the money right away [Read more] | Read more »
Model 15 (Music)
Model 15 1.0 Device: iOS iPhone Category: Music Price: $29.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: The Moog Model 15 App is the first Moog modular synthesizer and synthesis educational tool created exclusively for iPad, iPhone and... | Read more »
How to deal with wind in Angry Birds Act...
Angry Birds Action! is a physics-based puzzler in which you're tasked with dragging and launching birds around an obstacle-littered field to achieve a set objective. It's simple enough at first, but when wind gets introduced things can get pretty... | Read more »
How to get three stars in every level of...
Angry Birds Action! is, essentially, a pinball-style take on the pull-and-fling action of the original games. When you first boot it up, you'll likely be wondering exactly what it is you have to do to get a good score. Well, never fear as 148Apps... | Read more »
The beginner's guide to Warbits
Warbits is a turn-based strategy that's clearly inspired by Nintendo's Advance Wars series. Since turn-based strategy games can be kind of tricky to dive into, see below for a few tips to help you in the beginning. Positioning is crucial [Read... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

12-inch 128GB iPad Pros on sale for up to $10...
B&H Photo has 12″ 128GB WiFi iPad Pros on sale for up to $100 off MSRP, each including free shipping. B&H charges sales tax in NY only: - 12″ Space Gray 128GB WiFi iPad Pro: $899 $50 off MSRP... Read more
Global Tablet Sales Slump Continues, iPad’s F...
Another miserable showing for the global slate tablet category in calendar Q1/16, with global tablet shipments falling another 1ten percent to 46.5 million units during the according to Strategy... Read more
Revel Systems to Showcase iPad POS Platform w...
Revel Systems, specialists in iPad Point of Sale management solution for brick-and-mortar retail, food businesses and more, today announced that it will showcase its innovative iPad Point of Sale... Read more
13-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro on sale for $999,...
B&H Photo has the 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pro on sale for $999 including free shipping plus NY sales tax only. Their price is $100 off MSRP. Read more
Apple refurbished 2015 iMacs available for up...
Apple now has a full line of Certified Refurbished 2015 21″ & 27″ iMacs available for up to $350 off MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is standard, and shipping is free. The following models are... Read more
Indian Smartphone Market Grows Annually by 12...
India’s smartphone market grew by 12 percent year-over-year, with 24.4 million units shipping in Q1 2016. The top five vendors stayed the same, with Samsung in the lead, followed by Micromax, Intex... Read more
Get Notifications When Your Friend’s Phone Ba...
Calgary, Canada based Stonelight Pictures has announced the release of Battery Share 1.0.1, its new utility for iOS 9 supported devices. The company notes that people are spending more time on their... Read more
11-inch 1.6GHz/128GB MacBook Air on sale for...
Amazon has the current-generation 11″ 1.6GHz/128GB MacBook Air (sku MJVM2LL/A) on sale for $749.99 for a limited time. Their price is $150 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for this model... Read more
Price drops on clearance 2015 13-inch MacBook...
B&H Photo has dropped prices on clearance 2015 13″ MacBook Airs by up to $250. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only: - 13″ 1.6GHz/4GB/128GB MacBook Air (MJVE2LL/A): $799, $200... Read more
Mac minis on sale for up to $100 off MSRP
B&H Photo has Mac minis on sale for up to $100 off MSRP including free shipping plus NY sales tax only: - 1.4GHz Mac mini: $449 $50 off MSRP - 2.6GHz Mac mini: $649 $50 off MSRP - 2.8GHz Mac mini... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
Restaurant Manager (Neighborhood Captain) - A...
…in every aspect of daily operation. WHY YOU'LL LIKE IT: You'll be the Big Apple . You'll solve problems. You'll get to show your ability to handle the stress and Read more
Automotive Sales Consultant - Apple Ford Linc...
…you. The best candidates are smart, technologically savvy and are customer focused. Apple Ford Lincoln Apple Valley is different, because: $30,000 annual salary Read more
Restaurant Manager (Neighborhood Captain) - A...
…in every aspect of daily operation. WHY YOU'LL LIKE IT: You'll be the Big Apple . You'll solve problems. You'll get to show your ability to handle the stress and Read more
Simply Mac *Apple* Specialist- Service Repa...
Simply Mac is the largest premier retailer of Apple products in the nation. In order to support our growing customer base, we are currently looking for a driven Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.