With the release of Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, Apple is the last major operating system maker to jump on the 64-bit train. Apple’s marketers shamelessly hype as a “next generation technology” what has been available to Windows users since 2005 and to Linux users since 2001.
Another technology that is hyped with the release of Snow Leopard is QuickTime X: “another leap forward”. Actually it is a significant step backward: support for QuickTimeVR has been dropped.
QuickTimeVR, introduced by Apple in 1994, was a ground-breaking technology to display and interact with 360° panoramas. Apple stopped development years ago and QTVR has lingered within QuickTime. In the meantime other technologies surpassed it, but it is still important because of the sheer quantity of unique legacy content entrusted to this format.
Now Apple is dropping QTVR. There are instructions to install an older version of QuickTime 7 on Snow Leopard, but by default content that has been entrusted by thousands of authors to Apple’s format for virtual reality panoramas is doomed to become obsolete. How long will the legacy last?
Apple is leaving in the rain thousands of media makers and millions of users. It is condemning to oblivion a lot of original and unique content. Multimedia CDs and DVDs; online content such as the Sydney Opera House Virtual Tour, anno 2002 one of the pioneering examples of this back then nascent art.
Content that has been authored for QuickTime VR will get lost and forgotten. But is it really Apple’s fault? I don’t think so. While it is inconvenient, authors and publishers who have kept their source images can re-author them for modern and supported technologies. And archiving is the author’s and publisher’s responsibility. Even better: don’t entrust your documents and media to proprietary format. Even if QTVR is very well documented, it is closed and there are no incentives to keep it alive, even if authors need it.
Free, open formats don’t suffer this risk. They will always be readable and playable as long as the code is available and there are users interested. A migration path to future format is likely to be available. I am sure plenty of authors who have their media in QTVR format would be interested. The right thing for Apple to do now is to release QTVR under an Open Source license and let the users community do the rest, instead of taking so much irreplaceable content into the QTVR grave.
This is a prime example that shows the risk of entrusting your content to a proprietary format. It’s like keeping betamax tapes and waiting for the player to break.