iTunes Movie Store Coming Soon?

iTunes 4.8 is now out, and interesting enough, it now does QuickTime video, and the iTunes Music Store is selling some music videos. Over at Slashdot, an Apple insider spills the beans on Apple’s video initiatives:

Everybody’s wrong about the video iPod thing. A video iPod would be a dumb idea for lots of reasons, some technical, some psychological. If you want to know where we’re going with video playback, look not to the iPod but to its considerably less famous little brother, AirPort Express.

(Addendum: I see now that at least a couple of commenters have figured this out already. Good for them. You all suck for stealing my surprise. One of them even nailed the big challenge, still to date unsolved, right on the head. I wonder if you guys will know it when you see it?)

Yes, of course we’re going to be selling new types of content via the iTunes distribution model. It may or may not happen through the “iTunes” name. On the one hand, selling movies and TV shows through a store called “iTunes” makes no sense. On the other, iTunes has HUGE brand recognition right now. It’s a marketing decision.

What exactly we offer depends on whose content you’re talking about. Some content will be provided to us in 720-by-486 anamorphic, which we’ll encode in H.264 at between 1 and 2 megabits. (Did you notice that QuickTime 7 has additional support for anamorphic video? I knew you would.) Other content will come in at HD, and for the time being we’ll scale that down to half-HD at 2 Mbps. Doing full 1080/24p at 8 Mbps just isn’t practical right now given that even the fastest cable modems in the US top out at 4 Mbps; in order to get real-time streaming of full-HD content, you’d need one of those new-fangled fiber optic Internet services that the telcos are starting to roll out. That’s too forward-thinking for phase one. But we can do 2 Mbps now to the same customers we’re shipping iTunes songs to.

Pricing, terms and dates will be totally up in the air until five minutes before we announce, and maybe even after that. Remember the Australian store? We had to put that roll-out on indefinite hiatus when The Label That Shall Not Be Named pulled out. All of this depends on the content-providers. Yes, somebody out there is going to say “Pixar.” To that person I whisper the name “Disney” and the phrase “subsidiary rights.” It’s not as simple as you think.

Basically what stands between us and roll-out today is 10% technological and 90% business. It strikes me as kinda funny that some people look only at the technology part of our operations for clues as to future directions. Yes, we shipped iTunes 4.8 with video playback. Whoopty-do. iTunes is built on QuickTime. Adding video support was so incredibly trivial, you wouldn’t believe it. It’s a tiny thing. What’s a much bigger thing is the gradual shift, over the past two years, in the way we as a company do business. We are very serious about IP. We’ve made a name for ourselves as being the one company in the industry that, better than anybody else, understands the need to zealously protect intellectual property. So when we go to (say) Disney and ask them to let us distribute their unimaginably valuable IP over the Internet, we’re going to have a little bit more credibility than whatever copycat tries to come along behind us (cough*Napster*cough, cough*Walmart*cough).

These are the things you guys need to be paying attention to. Not the product releases. The lawsuits. That’s where you’ll find the clues.

Airport Express is Apple’s wireless router technology that features AirTunes, which lets you wirelessly transfer songs from iTunes to your home stereo — in essence, Apple’s looking to do the same for video. You plug in the Airport Video or what have you, and it streams HD content wireless to your TV and decodes it into a signal.

And if you’re an Apple/video geek like me, you’ve just had a small orgasm. If you’ve ever seen the HD trailers available from Apple right now in their full glory, you’ve seen how great the H.264 codec is for displaying gorgously high-resolution video. Imagine being able to rent or purchase a full-length movie in beautiful high-res format, and then stream it from your Mac to your TV on demand. Imagine being able to purchase episodes of your favorite TV series on demand and then burn them to DVD like you can with music from iTunes.

If this is the direction that Apple’s going, and there’s more than enough evidence that says that it is, we’re talking a major leap forwards in digital entertainment. Apple’s one of the few companies that can make all this work, and if they do it’s going to have a massive effect on the market.

Think of Netflix – Netflix is like an online video store with really crappy bandwidth. Netflix is in the business of shipping digital content, they just do it in envelopes rather than digitally. It works, but it’s slow and the discs can easily be ripped and copied. If Apple can take the same model, except have the movies download automatically, they’re going to make a killing. It would slowly but surely make the old-fashioned video rental business obsolete – why drive to the store or wait for a DVD to arrive via snail mail when you can download a movie in a matter of hours? Already online rentals are exceptionally successful — on-demand video would do to them what they’ve done to the traditional video rental business.

If Apple can get consumer-friendly DRM through the studios (a very big if), this is going to be another killer app for them. The iPod has been a runaway success, and Apple isn’t resting on their laurels here – they’re spearheading a totally new realm of digital content delivery, and if anyone can get the dream of on-demand movies off the ground, Apple is it.

4 thoughts on “iTunes Movie Store Coming Soon?

  1. Hi all,

    I’m very interested in purchasing a new MP3 player such as the iPod, though I already have an extensive music collection on Musicmatch. My old player is truly old, with something like 128MB (about two hours of music). I’d like to get something that would hold all of my music. Anyway, can anyone direct me to a resource which breaks down the various components of the leading MP3 products, what to look for, cost, etc.? I’d very much appreciate it.



  2. CNet’s reviews are pretty good.

    The iPod is by far the best, and pretty much every review tends to say the same. So long as your music collection is in MP3, the iPod will have no problem importing it. In terms of software, accessories, and the like, you won’t find much better than an iPod – plus, the prices are very reasonable now for what you get.

    I have heard good things about the Rio Karma and the Creative Zen, though – although again, you’d end up buying into a platform that has only a small marketshare and socks you with much more annoying restrictions on the music you buy than iTunes.

  3. Alright Jay, I’m back with my the continuing story of my flirtation with abandoning the PC for Apple. Oh, how I’d love to have that beautiful Mac on my desk. iMac or Power Mac, that screen is just gorgeous.

    But here’s the problem. Cost. It hits you in a couple of ways that I can’t seem to reconcile. Go configure a Dell with a DVD RW, second HD and 512 MB Ram (that you expect to later upgrade), and then try the same thing with an iMac and a G5. You can’t really get a second HD for the iMac (second internal is great for capturing video because it is separated from the system disk). Hard as well to compare, escpecially considering I can upgrade my Adobe Premiere for $200 but if I got the iMac I’d have to shell out more just for Final Cut Express (Premiere is no longer made for the Mac). And while the displays are gorgeous, with the PowerMac you have to spend no less than $800 for one. Now that drives up the price, eh?

    So, dammit, I’m leaning toward getting another freaking PC. Sure, I bought the iPod based on design and interface without even shopping the other brands and didn’t even think about the price. I knew which was superior. But we are up in price by several orders of magnitude.

    I’m so frustrated. It’s like I see that beautiful sports car that handles perfectly and is designed perfectly but know I have to buy the minivan.

    If I could just swallow a price jump from 2K to about 4K, then I’d grab the Powermac. Alas.

    Don’t know what you can say to help, but maybe this will give those marketing guys at Apple a little help. 🙂

  4. Apple displays are gorgeous, but really expensive. You can probably shave off some cost by going with a cheaper LCD display.

    Apple’s BTO additions are also pricey – for laptops it’s not cost effective to get them added on later, but for the PowerMac it’s worth it. Any SATA drive will work in the PowerMac, as well DDR RAM (just make sure it’s not some off brand – Apple motherboards are finicky about having good RAM.) You’re probably best getting a base model PowerMac then throwing the add-ons in later. The PowerMacs are actually very easy to upgrade, and plugging in extra RAM or a SATA drive isn’t hard. That saves you some cash.

    Either that or just make the jump to the dual 2gHz machine – that baby is faster than anything in the PC world, and it’s got enough baseline specs that you’ll have no problem running Final Cut on it.

    Yeah, Macs have a greater initial cost. They also keep their value a lot longer. A 4-year-old Mac is still a solid machine, and it’s not uncommon to see them used for heavy-duty tasks like print graphics to this day. You should be able to get a machine that would handle DV editing just fine for right around $2K. Macs are build for multimedia, so even a “consumer” machine like the iMac should be able to handle pretty much everything you throw at it without breaking a sweat. 250GB is enough space for editing a ton of footage, and if you add an external USB2 or FireWire drive for extra storage, you should have an excellent editing machine.

    If you’re near an Apple store, try one of them out. 9 times out of 10 the people working at Apple stores work there because they’ve joined the Apple cult, so they tend to be able to answer pretty much anything you throw at them.

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