MOVing towards MPEG-4

Apple made its debut in the video format arena with MOV files, which it uses for QuickTime multimedia productions. Most of the time, this is where you'll find MOV files, although Apple is slowly "MOVing" itself towards the more modern MPEG-4 codec. As a result, in the future most QuickTime video files will favor the MP4 file extension over the aging MOV.

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Still, QuickTime has been associated with MOV files for a long time. The pair was first released on December 2, 1991 as a media expansion for the System Software 6 program. At that time, Apple wowed onlookers by playing the company's famous Orson Wells' "1984" themed television commercial on a Macintosh computer. It was a showcase of computer technology not seen before, and it launched MOV and QuickTime into a spotlight previously dominated by the competition.

You might think of the two as an old married couple: although one might be eyeing a sexy nurse (MP4), there's a good chance that, similar to AVI, MOV will be around for some time.

MOV is technically designated as a QuickTime file, and its functionality is based on its structure as a multimedia-container file.

What does MOV contain?

A MOV includes one or more "tracks", with each storing a specific type of data. These can be anything from audio to video to text (for subtitle purposes), with each type of data containing something called "track media". It is here that the digitally encoded music stream – or codec – is employed. These include anything from MPEG to JPEG (the compression of photo images).

Although MOV still exists, as previously mentioned, it has been downgraded in status since the February 11, 1998 approval to integrate MPEG-4 with QuickTime.

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QuickTime and MPEG-4 offer a variety of exciting features, including file capture, editing, distribution, archiving and, perhaps most importantly, playback. MPEG-4 compatibility was added to QuickTime 6 in the year 2002 after licensing issues were cleared up.

Although MOV has been significantly reduced in use since QuickTime undertook MPEG-4 compatibility, it is still a part of Apple's multimedia service. This means that it might just be in use when you access DVDs on your computer or the upcoming iTunes movie database.