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QuickTime’s stealth marketing is off the scope

By Nobody Special ( and Johnny (, 11 August 2000

What does it mean when the trade press in your industry totally ignores your product?

Proponents of Apple’s QuickTime products are pondering that question as they watch both the electronic and print press build up the “streaming media wars” as a Real Media vs. Microsoft battle. Score one for the massive impact of the Wintel world, said Brian Satchfield, a Florida-based video production manager.

“The majority of print media and web site publications unfortunately have a bias toward safe technologies; safe meaning Windows-based, popular technologies, as opposed to the less-hyped, Apple or third-party products,” he explained. “It shows how little the expert writers covering our field really understand.”

Ask most folks in the video production field and they’ll tell you QuickTime has more arrows in its quiver than any other video production tool. But the marginalizing of QuickTime in the public eye makes QuickTime-based products more difficult to sell to less video-savvy clients.

“The result is that corporate decision makers start to think that Real Player and Windows Media Player are the first-string players and that QuickTime is some sort of inferior product,” said Pat Neill, Director of the Multimedia Interactive Learning Laboratory (MILL) at UC, San Diego, “All of these brand issues trickle down to developers because when you want to convince someone that QuickTime is the solution for a particular problem, it’s going to be a hard sell because they don’t have positive feelings about QuickTime.”

“But, try to sell them on a Real or WMP solution and they’ll jump right on board because they are comfortable with those brands. This logic is reinforced when trade article after trade article doesn’t talk about QuickTime, but talks about WMP and Real.”

QuickTime’s ace in the video hole has always been that its file format has been selected as the standard for MPEG-4. With new markets to exploit and the endorsement of the ISO, QuickTime’s future as the kingpin of computer video seemed rock-solid a couple of years ago. However, finalizing that standard has been a long time in coming. With no finished version in sight – after seven years of discussions – the cable television industry and others may opt to implement some other standard as they start rolling out their interactive services by year’s end.

“The bottom line is that the cable television industry is moving very aggresively into interactive television and they are going to standardize on something in the near future,” said Michael Roper, co-founder of Botticelli Interactive, Inc. “MPEG-4 is clearly the key and it would behoove Apple to give some kind of indication they are aware of the importance of this, and release a solution as soon as possible – even if it is an interim solution while we await the finalized standard.”

“Otherwise, I fear QuickTime could be sidelined in one of the most important areas of streaming media: interactive television on cable set-top boxes. My company is looking at alternatives now for this market, and we would like to have an Apple solution, rather than being forced to use an inferior technology.”

Everyone’s eyes can turn toward Cupertino and wait for Apple to crank up the volume on the company’s marketing machine. However, Apple may currently have too many other things on its plate to put together an effective campaign to promote QuickTime, suggested Randall McCallum, CEO of Totally Hip Software.

“QuickTime-specific ads and print media can help to remove this stigma, but Apple has so far been focused on the Apple branding,” he said. “QuickTime developers can help brand QuickTime for Apple so it wouldn’t be viewed as just an Apple-only technology. It only requires some QuickTme developers to get together to make it happen.”

“Perhaps QuickTime developers need to wrench QuickTime away from Apple for a while and lead by example. If more QuickTime developers band together en masse they will show Apple how it can be done.”

Relying on developer enthusiasm to promote Apple technologies that the company itself does not push has not always been that successful (witness HyperCard). However, it seems clear that QuickTime needs some sort of promotional effort to win media and corporate mindshare, or risk dropping off the radar of video professionals.

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