I Am the Corporate Media

Yesterday, I got my first official press pass. I attended the National Health Information Infrastructure 2004 Conference as a media representative from iHealthBeat — which is an on-line publication from California HealthCare Foundation, but is produced in partnership with The Advisory Board Company. (Got it all straight yet?)

In any case, we weren’t there for the whole conference, but just to tape opening presentations by HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson and HCIT Coordinator David Brailer. Alas, Bill Frist postponed his speech until later in the morning, so we didn’t get to see him. Damn, I was so looking forward to that...

Seriously, though, I think I’ll avoid editorializing on the meeting itself. First of all, because I’m sure some folks here can do a much better job of it than I (at least with regard to certain of the participants), and second, because since my appearance was part of my day job, I’d like to avoid any ethical conflicts that may arise. After all, Prometheus Unleashed is hardly representative of the general political leanings of my employer.

I will, however, comment freely on what happened after we taped the conference. In order to post the video footage on the iHealthBeat website, we need to convert it into both Real and Windows Media formats (yeah, I know, QuickTime is infinitely superior to both of those, but that’s a battle we lost). Doing that conversion isn’t under my purview, but that of the publication’s Multimedia Editor; fair enough, she certainly knows what she’s doing.

But here’s the rub. She used to work using Premiere on the PC, but it proved so ridiculously unwieldy that she fought for and won the right to work on a Mac. Beautiful. Of course, with the advent of Final Cut Pro, Adobe killed development of Premiere on the Mac. All right, so you’d think it’d be a logical next step to transition to FCP; after all, that’s what I did, right?

I’ve got one word for you: Microsoft. Seems that good ol’ Billy Gates worked out a deal with Adobe that would allow for a Premiere plug-in to convert video into the hideous-yet-ubiquitous Windows Media format. But hmmm... Premiere for the Mac is dead. So the way it works now is as long as she stays using the old version of Premiere — under the no-longer-supported OS 9.2, no less — then all is well and good. ’Cause other than that, there is no way to create a Windows Media file on a Mac. None. It’s obviously not a technical limitation, since the Premiere plug-in proves that it can be done. But Microsoft wants to make absolutely sure that if you want to author media in the Windows Media format, you’re going to have to work on a Windows PC.

Premiere is buggy enough on the Mac — we ended up spending the whole afternoon yesterday just trying to get it to capture the video files. In the end, we were only partially successful — instead of the whole speeches, we were only able to capture snippets. To even consider going back to the PC would cripple productivity. But at the moment, that would look like the only option, at least at some point in the near future.

I’m less concerned about this specific problem than with the larger implications, given that Windows Media has been endorsed as a standard for the new HD DVDs. Gee, what do you think the chances are that Microsoft will make up some reason to bar the mastering of such discs on the Mac platform?

I’d put ’em at around 100 percent.


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