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QuickTime3 is FREE!
Well... mostly

By: Mark Murphy
(C) 1998 - All Rights Reserved
Not for reprint without permission

If you're a well read netizen, you are probably aware that QuickTime 3.0 has been released by Apple Computer. It's Apple's latest revision to the most widely used multimedia architecture available for both Mac and Windows. I won't go into details about the product's many features and enhancements.

For that, check out:

Just as predictable as Christmas in December, the usual chicken littles and Apple snipers have found something to crow about. What am I talking about, you may be thinking? I'm talking about Apple's price for QuickTime and potential developer licensing fees.

As always, I like to deal in the facts. As a software developer (geeky to the nth degree I suppose), I deal in numbers and logic. So I usually try to look at an issue to make sure the facts check out and the argument makes sense to keep my emotions in check. Before I get emotional, I want to see if the licensing fees are extortion, or are they are fair, do they add value and do they make sense. Lets look at the price of QuickTime 3.0 Pro, and licensing fees, and see if they can pass my test.

QuickTime Basic

  • First off, QuickTime 3.0 Basic is FREE.
  • It's FREE for MacOS users.
  • It's FREE for Windows 95 and NT users.
  • It will be bundled in upcoming MacOS releases (as Apple's policy is to integrate finished software into the OS).
  • Last but not least, Apple has stated that QTML (basically QuickTime) will be included in Rhapsody.
    If a user needs to play back QuickTime 3.0 media, they get to do it for FREE.

So far very good -- Apple is continuing their tradition of making sure users will be able to play/view most QuickTime media available on CD ROMs or the Internet.

So QuickTime 3.0 Basic passes my test -- It's FREE and it's functional for the majority of people. Good value!

QuickTime Pro

If a user wants the professional features of QuickTime, Apple has a Pro version which costs $29.99 and is available directly on their web site.

For details on Pro features, check out:

Now, users aren't use to Apple selling any portion of QuickTime. So this caused an uproar. I have to ask myself, "is this acceptable?"

Is $30 Acceptable?

$30 is not a lot to ask for a program which delivers the features of the Pro version. This price is definitely in the range of most shareware and utility software fees.

Let's compare:

  1. $29.99 - RealPlayer Plus (RealAudio)
  2. $35.00 - GraphicConverter
  3. $30.00 - StuffIt Lite
  4. $20.00 - NetFinder
  5. $29.95 - ShrinkWrap
  6. $20.00 - IPNetMonitor
  7. $30.00 - CyberFinder
  8. $30.00 - ZTerm

Apple's put a lot of work into the advanced features of QuickTime 3.0 and just like the above authors, they need to be paid for their efforts. QuickTime 3.0 Pro definitely has enough features for it to join the ranks of the above software.

So as a customer this also passes my test!

Licensing Fees

Now, on to what is probably causing the most uproar on a few mailing lists (and even a Mac web site or two). There are licensing fees for developers to include the QuickTime Installer with their software.

Ric Ford <> described one of the licensing methods as "a virus-like, continual recreation of an unwanted file on every user's desktop". Others have predicted "doom and gloom" for Apple's new direction of bondage for developers. These sorts of inflammatory comments ping the meter on my bullshit detector. Whenever someone uses such colorful adjectives to describe a situation, one has to make sure they separate the rhetoric from the facts. Don't caught in a holy jihad, in this case a holy jihad is the never ending zings towards Apple that some just can't resist.

Apple has always had a licensing agreement for developers to sign if they wanted to include Apple technology along with their product (1).

(1) I'm not talking about the software in question *using* the technology, I'm talking about actually bundling. Like; a game including QuickTime on the CD, or an Internet program including Open Transport, or a graphics application including Color Sync.

QuickTime is still Free!

Developers don't have to bundle the QuickTime installer at all with their product! Many of the programs we regularly use on our computers require that we have other components installed on our systems. Some programs even require we have more recent versions of popular components -- and these programs usually just point users in the right direction for the required pieces.

Developers don't pay anything to write QuickTime applications. A developer can write any kind of QuickTime application they choose and not pay Apple one dime! This is in contrast to many other third party technologies which developers must pay dearly for to even compile into their applications! So developers get to develop for and deliver QuickTime 3.0 Basic or Pro applications for FREE!

As a developer, this option passes my test.

So what's different with QuickTime 3.0 with respect to licensing?

Well since Apple is charging for QuickTime 3.0 Pro, it is also going to charge developers a very small amount if they want to include QuickTime 3.0 Pro with their products.

Also if developers want to include QuickTime 3.0 Basic with their products, they must either pay a small sum or provide the equivalent of a notice to upgrade to QuickTime 3.0 Pro.

If developers absolutely feel they must include the QuickTime 3.0 Basic Installer *with* their applications, Apple has two options:

  1. Include a movie which encourages the user to upgrade to QuickTime 3.0 Pro
    - or -
  2. Pay $1 per copy

So a developer can still include QuickTime for FREE! All the developer has to do is play the "Get QuickTime 3.0 Pro" movie when their package is being installed. If the user does not upgrade to the Pro version, the developer's software must make sure the Get QuickTime 3.0 Pro movie is available on the users desktop (2).

(2) This method is less intrusive than those several second wait screens on some shareware products! Launching an unregistered shareware application only to have it freeze my entire system for several (15?!) seconds is pretty damn frustrating.

Apple has definitely learned something from shareware authors. Instead of continuously reminding users to buy QuickTime Pro, they simply require the movie to be played *once* during install and then just a simple file on the user's desktop... much like a README file on most other apps.

Of course, developers have other options as well. The developer can simply pay Apple $1 per copy. The customer gets QuickTime 3.0 delivered in their hands, no download waiting time, no fussing with finding QuickTime, and adding value to their product, all for only a buck!

So this option passes my test. Apple allows developers to include the QuickTime 3.0 Basic Installer for FREE -or- pay a modest fee if the application demands it.

The Big Kahuna

The last licensing option seems well suited for developers who want to give their customers a $29.99 value for only a $2 cost! Apple is giving developers a very deep discount on including QuickTime 3.0 Pro with their applications.

So, for example, a high end QuickTime application costing $199 included QuickTime 3.0 Pro, the end user would get an extra 15% value while the developer only paid 1% to give it. I can see it now, QuickTime software packages with a sticker proclaiming: "Includes QuickTime 3.0 Pro, a $30 value!"

This last option passes my test with flying colors. From a developer's point of view, I've just been given a great deal for my customers.


Bundling is big business in the software industry, and Apple certainly deserves to compete with others, and be compensated for the products they create.

So after taking a deep breath, closing my ears to the "picking a fight with Apple at every opportunity holy jihad", I find Apple's right in line with most other methods of software distribution. More than that, as a developer I'm getting a great discount for my customers, and adding value to my products, if I want to include QuickTime 3.0 Pro.

So QuickTime3 passes every test I have for whether it is "fair" and "a good value".

As always... avoid the hype... stick to the facts... and don't sign up for that holy jihad just yet.

Created: 04/03/98
Updated: 11/09/02

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