RIP, QuickTime for Windows

As you may have heard, Apple will no longer provide fixes for QuickTime for Windows, not even for two released security vulnerabilities (this post is a sort of PSA, as well: if for some reason you have QuickTime for Windows, uninstall it now). I wonder why anyone refers to QuickTime for Windows as being deprecated, as deprecated technologies don’t receive updates or fixes except for critical issues: the correct term for the no-fixes-at-all situation is unsupported; for all intents and purposes, QuickTime for Windows is dead. And while this has been coming for some time, this doesn’t make these news any less sad; so today, let us remember QuickTime for Windows.

While I think it existed earlier in some form, the real beginning for QuickTime for Windows was with QuickTime 3.0, which had feature parity with the MacOS version — imagine that! I know little about how it fared at that time, since my usage of Windows machines was limited; I only know that a number of game developers adopted it, eager for an acceptable media playback solution (e.g. for cutscenes): a number of games had you install QuickTime for Windows (bundled on the game CD) in order to run. Also, QuickTime for Windows came with an implementation of a subset of the Mac toolbox (though with some differences, e.g. file name length), which helped with the port of some Mac games to Windows.

Then, some of you might not have really known that time, so you have to take my word for the fact that, before YouTube in 2005-2006, there was no universal standard for distributing video online; but QuickTime with its browser plugin was the closest we had. So people were posting videos in QuickTime format (e.g. this Apple switch ad campaign parody); this did not support Linux or Unix, and Windows users were a bit reluctant to install QuickTime, but this was miles better than any alternative such as Windows media which, if it was supported at all on the Mac, was always incredibly crappy.

QuickTime served also, back then, as the basis for media playback of iTunes for Windows, which itself was the indispensable tool for allowing anyone (not just Mac owners) to own an iPod, then later on an iPhone. For those purposes and many others, QuickTime for Windows carried the burden of making sure many Apple initiatives were at least viewable outside of just Macs, playing no small part in keeping Apple relevant for all these years. QuickTime for Windows was the symbol of Apple’s leadership in multimedia, and everything it allowed legitimized the Mac and Apple including for die-hard Windows users in a way that is impossible to overstate.

For instance, back when I worked at NXP Software, QuickTime Player was the standard test for determining whether a movie file was correctly formatted (among other reasons because we were working with 3GPP media files, whose format, like that of MPEG4 media files, was derived from the QuickTime movie format): if a file generated by our media recorder had an issue with QuickTime Player, which was necessarily on Windows (we did not use Macs, at least not before we developed iPhone apps), then there was a bug in our media recorder. This made for a fun investigation when I tried to understand a bug that turned out to actually be in QuickTime!

As far as users go, the average user now has a number of alternatives, starting with VLC, but there are a number of people working on Windows in media and media-related industries who will miss having a reference media player on their machine (iTunes’ just not the same thing). However, software developers who were still building against the QuickTime SDK and relying on QuickTime being installed on Windows should have seen it coming for some time: the writing has been on the wall for QuickTime for Windows since QuickTime X in 2009, when there was no corresponding update on the Windows side, which stayed on QuickTime 7. I have not used Windows machines for media work for some time, and I missed the event when iTunes for Windows become independent of QuickTime, so this personally caught me a bit by surprise nevertheless.

So long, QuickTime for Windows. We’ll miss you.

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