QuickTime Quickly Problem

April 17

Thursday the US Department of Homeland Security sent out an urgent alert telling people to uninstall Apple’s QuickTime for Windows. This was based on Trend Micro’s report of two reliable QuickTime vulnerabilities on the Windows platform. The background buzz at NAB is already on this problem big time and everyone is pondering what it might mean to the industry. But to Apple, I’d say: be careful for what you wish for.

Apple apparently hasn’t been updating security vulnerabilities lately with QuickTime for Windows, and has been planning to retire the program for some time. Well, consider it retired now. Most of the tech Web sites have reported the vulnerabilities and recommend uninstalling QuickTime for Windows. (Removal instructions here.) That’s despite the fact that there are no known exploits using the two security holes in the product. There will be, I’m sure, within a matter of days.

The problem is that there are still products on the market that rely on QuickTime, and removing Windows as a delivery platform is essentially going to make everyone rethink their use of QuickTime, even on MacOS (see how I snuck that name in? Foreshadowing ;~). Which products? Well, anything that uses Apple ProRes or Avid DnXHD codecs, as it turns out, as if you uninstall QuickTime you lose access to those codecs. Which is why everyone is talking about this at NAB. Everyone here uses ProRes or DnXHD.

The even bigger problem is Apple not telling users when products are no longer receiving security updates. How many other Apple products are no longer getting patches? Apple’s aggressive approach to deprecation of products—both hardware and software—means that it is difficult to build any product on their platform. It’s like trying to walk across a lake that’s iced over: you never know when you’ll fall in. 

Personally, I consider QuickTime dead. When folk at the NAB ask me about what I think of the QuickTime Windows problem, that’s what I’ve been answering: QuickTime’s dead. Apple’s own marketing basically positions QuickTime as “crystal-clear video playback.” Well, okay, sure, for the codecs QuickTime supports, which as it turns out are slowly becoming more of a subset of the ones you might encounter. Except, of course, for ProRes and DnXHD, which need QuickTime installed.

In the old days, QuickTime was about the only solution for playback that maximized your chances of playing a video. But Apple hasn’t kept up to the times, and there are plentiful formats that QuickTime won’t handle now. I’d say that QuickTime’s role has been pretty much supplanted by VLC these days.

As to what to do about the ProRes/DnXHD problem, no one knows. Simplest solution: Apple patches QuickTime for Windows.

Updated: to explain why NAB is talking about QuickTime.

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