Apple previewed QuickTime 6 at its QuickTime Live! conference yesterday, but its release has been delayed by a licensing spat.

The company also took the wraps off
QuickTime Streaming Server 4 and introduced QuickTime Broadcaster – which enables Macintosh users to broadcast QuickTime streams.

As predicted by many industry insiders, the new version features full support for MPEG-4, an emerging standard for streaming high-quality content to computers and other devices.

Licensing hold-up Work on the new version is complete, but QuickTime 6 won't be made available until the MPEG-4 standards body has "improved" its licensing conditions. At present, the licensing terms proposed by the largest group of MPEG-4 patent holders (MPEG-LA) include the collection of royalty payments from software companies, including Apple, as well as content providers using the standard to furnish video streams.

Apple's response is to say it "agrees" with paying a reasonable royalty for including MPEG-4 codecs in QuickTime, but doesn't believe the standard "can be successful in the marketplace" if content owners must also pay royalties to deliver content using the standard.

Phil Schiller, Apple's senior vice president of worldwide product marketing, encouraged concerned QuickTime users to write constructive appraisals of MPEG-LA's proposed licensing system for MPEG-4, offering MPEG-LA's email address ([email protected]).

Format fillip Schiller explained: "MPEG-4 is the best format for streaming media on the Web, and QuickTime 6 is the first complete MPEG-4 solution. The standard is poised for great success once the licensing terms are modified to allow content providers to stream their content royalty-free." Schiller's full keynote speech is available to view using QuickTime.

Features of QuickTime 6 include: support for Advanced Audio Coding (AAC), a next generation audio format; support for CELP, an MPEG-4 speech codec for reproducing natural speech; adherence to the Internet Streaming Media Alliance (ISMA - of which Apple is a member) 1.0 specification; MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 playback; Flash 5 support; DVC Pro (PAL) support; and skip-protection enhancements.

The new version of Apple's multimedia standard also features an updated user interface with improved Favourites – offering easier access to QuickTime content.

Schiller said: "We have 1.5 million page views per day at the QuickTime area of Apple's site." He revealed that QuickTime enjoys 300,000 new installs daily, and pointed out that 28,000 Web sites per day point to Apple's site to encourage visitors to download QuickTime.