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The Leopard Report: Please Make QuickTime Pro Free!

When Apple decided to charge you $1.99 to upgrade your recent Mac’s AirPort hardware to support the draft 802.11 standard for speedier Wi-Fi, some of you took it with relative calm. However, some of you thought Apple was just being greedy as usual, although they presented a set of arguments that it was all done for accounting purposes, not to rip you off.

Well, there is one example where I feel Apple is overdoing it just a little bit — make that quite a bit — and that’s QuickTime Pro, which is the enhanced version of QuickTime that exacts a $29.99 tribute to unlock some extra features.

Unfortunately, if you haven’t done a little checking in advance, you may not know what you’re missing until you try to access a feature in QuickTime and find a hideous message in the menu bar labels that it requires a Pro upgrade.

So what do you get when you shell out this modest sum? Well, according to Apple, there are a host of features that you won’t enjoy with the basic or free version. These include the ability to convert media formats so you can share audio and video content on your iPod or mobile phone. There are also basic editing capabilities, such as adding a sound track, rotating video and so on and so forth.

Perhaps the most useful feature for just about everybody is support for full-screen playback. Of course, you can also do that now in iTunes, so this isn’t a terribly compelling feature. And of course, you can capture audio with your USB microphone, which is useful for creating a basic Podcast, but isn’t that something that you would normally do in GarageBand?

Besides, do you really accept QuickTime as an audio editing application? Certainly I don’t.

All right, so maybe QuickTime Pro isn’t all that compelling for most of you, although I use it from time to time to convert or encode files for my two radio shows.

However, it’s the principle of the thing. Why is it so important for Apple to have two variations of QuickTime, one free and one as a commercial product? Is that $29.99 so crucial to Apple’s bottom line, or does it just upset people who discover, to their horror, that the free QuickTime download they got for their Mac or PC is a crippled product?

Now I don’t care so much about the price of admission as much as I think that Apple should give it all up and set QuickTime free. After all, they have record profits, right? It’s bad enough that there are no upgrade discounts for Apple’s consumer products, but charging for QuickTime Pro doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense. It conveys an image that Apple is being a little petty and greedy, looking to eke out profits from everything, and you know that, compared to Microsoft, that’s not entirely true.

I can understand that sort of policy from Microsoft, particularly with the way that Windows Vista upgrade kits are designed. There if you find the version you have somehow lacks the features you expected or need, you just call Microsoft, pay the price of admission, and they’ll give you a user license number that will unlock the higher-end versions from your installation CD.

Of course, QuickTime Pro is similar in a vague sense, because entering the registration number in the QuickTime preference panel magically unlocks all those restricted features. Of course, I don’t have to tell you that you can take the very same number and use it on any Mac in your home or office. Apple doesn’t use any online serialization scheme that activates those extra features (at least not yet!), nor do I think that Steve Jobs will send a team of lawyers to your home if you don’t buy a separate license for each computer.

But I do not intend to encourage people to violate a software license simply because I don’t like the policy. For now, I can only suggest you check the freeware and shareware offerings that might replace some of the features that you have to pay to access in QuickTime Player. Will that send Apple the proper message about such things?

I can’t say, but maybe, along with possibly including iLife ’07 as part of Mac OS 10.5 Leopard, Apple will relent and give up this misbegotten QuickTime Pro scheme once and for all.

Then you’ll have even more ammunition to use when you say that Microsoft is too greedy. Consider the possibilities.