After finally plopping down the cash to upgrade to a DVD-burning PowerMac G4, I ran over to my DVD collection. Now I could finally watch movies on my big studio display, I thought, and access all of that cool DVD-ROM content I’ve never gotten to see.

Not really. I looked at the fine print before I even slipped the discs into my Mac, and found these warnings.

On "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring": "Some of the DVD-ROM features may not work on a Macintosh."

On "Star Wars, Episode II: Attack of the Clones": "A DVD-ROM drive and an Internet connection on a PC with Windows 95 or higher is necessary to operate the enhanced features of these discs. Some of these DVD enhanced features will not work on a Mac."

Another famous example is "The Matrix" DVD: (in bold) "The enhanced DVD-ROM features will not work on a Macintosh computer."

I put "The Lord of the Rings" into my PowerMac’s DVD super drive to see what I could do. Upon opening the disc in the Finder, I found several folders and files, most of which gave me that sinking "I’m in PC world now" feeling. One file was called "install.exe." Next to it was a folder called, simply: "win." Yikes, we’re not in Cupertino anymore.

So I turned to my super-secret Macrimination weapon: Virtual PC by Connectix. After startup, however, the DVD did not mount in my emulated PC, as my other mounted hard disks had. A little research revealed that Virtual PC — at least in its Mac iteration — does not support the reading of DVD media. Back to the drawing board, I decided I would try and make a disk image of the special features disc so that I could have it mounted in Virtual PC. I couldn’t surmount the encryption used on the disc and got permissions errors in the Finder trying to make the disk image. Achieving this would most likely require an application like DVD Extractor, although I didn’t have time to test this.

Then, I copied everything on the DVD to my hard disk except for the video files, just to see what would happen. I was able to install the program used to run the DVD-ROM content (Interactual’s PC Friendly), and was even able to start it up, but all it did was open a player window and state: "Please insert a DVD disk." Yes, I’m sure this software is very friendly. To PCs, of course.

So what’s going on here? It seems that back when the explosion of DVD-ROM content took off, Apple’s DVD Player didn’t provide the protocols that were available on the Windows platform for presenting movies in windows other than DVD Player. Windows allows the programmer to put DVD content right in the middle of a Web page, for example.

According to the PC Friendly Web site:

"Apple provides limited support of external DVD playback control. … The only way to play back DVD-Video within the Mac OS is by using the Apple-supplied DVD Player controlled via AppleScript. Not all versions of the Apple DVD player support AppleScript consistently, and therefore do not provide the advanced control required for many DVD-ROM features.

"These and other limitations prevent even basic integration and control of DVD Video on MAC OS systems, which is needed to provide an interactive experience. While a Mac is often used in the development of enhanced ROM content, these playback limitations remain. InterActual and its customers have requested Mac support from Apple, and we hope to include features for the Mac audience in future InterActual-enhanced DVD products."

This note was released on Interactual’s site in October 2001. It hasn’t been updated since, and I could find little evidence on the Internet that the situation has improved. The last update to DVD Player for OS X states: "This update also adds AppleScript support for selection and playback of DVD content."

This still doesn’t change the fact that I have no idea what any of the DVD-ROM content on any of my disks looks like.

According to an article on last year, Apple said it had — up until that point — shipped more than 2 million DVD-R discs. It’s hard to believe that most of those people haven’t watched commercially-made DVDs in their drives, and wouldn’t want to enjoy some extra, interactive content. It’s also embarrassing for Hollywood, which puts Macs in nearly every movie or TV show it produces, despite the fact those computers can’t use all of the content on the DVDs released of those same movies.

Apple shares part of the blame here. Developing a better way for DVD Player to interact with other technologies, such as Web browsers, that doesn’t rely on AppleScript would open more content to Mac users. But developers also have to realize that there are alternatives to software made by companies like PC Friendly, such as Macromedia Director, for creating DVD-ROM content.

In the meantime, I think I’ll go watch a movie.

Tune in next week, when I take on Mac OS X late adopters. Yes, there will be at least one more column written in the online Mac press on why the holdouts should stop whining and make the jump to OS X. It’s only been out for two years now, but there is still plenty of evidence that some would much rather crash in OS 9 than enjoy the benefits of stable UNIX power.