Blog Post

Under a Microscope

As Apple launches into the realm of movie downloads via its newly dubbed iTunes Store, it can feel quite sure that every success and [especially] every misstep will be scrutinized by the motion picture industry. So much is at stake for the folks out of Hollywood, where sales have been steadily on the downward slope for months now. Can a new digital delivery system via the internet actually help boost sales? Well, that’s going a bit far I guess, but I doubt it’ll could do any worse than the current models. More than anything, it’s just the natural progression of technology and media.

There is so much argument over Copyright Infringement, Digital Rights Management, and so on, and so forth in the music industry, how is Apple able to make this bold step forward? Luckily (or possibly calculated?) Steve Jobs has a side gig going with a little animation studio by the name of Pixar, who recently merged with Disney. And just like that the iTunes Store debuts 75 movies from the Disney/Pixar catalog. Were it not for Mr Jobs’ involvement with these movie studios, I wonder how much longer a step like this would have taken… But nevertheless it has been taken. Now the Disney-owned flicks available in the iTunes Store will be the tip of the spear. Will they fly or fail? Seeing the way Apple has revolutionized media delivery over the internet, and the resulting options for consumption (personal computer, iPod, and soon the iTV), I believe they will soar with their new venture.

In the theaters, ticket sales are consistently decreasing and everyone seems to be scratching their head about what can be done to reverse the trend. Mark Cuban has gone so far as to offer up a job for anyone with a ground breaking idea on the topic. It seems to me that with well-equipped home viewing options rapidly increasing, people would rather wait a few months and enjoy a movie in the comfort of their own home. (Not to mention a rental for $1-5, or a DVD purchase for $14 beats the heck out of $9 +/- ticket costs at the theater!) I’m of the opinion that the movie makers would do well to embrace the new delivery options and focus their energy on making this new evolution profitable rather than flogging a relatively dead horse… But I’m slipping way off topic now.

All this is meant to illustrate that Hollywood is feeling the pinch. The last thing they want is to fall victim to further theft of copyrighted material, which it seems they fear may be a bi-product of digital downloads. While successes in this new program may be met with praise, any small knocks against it will likely be blown completely out of proportion.

As Josh and I discussed the news, the question was raised whether the movies – like their musical siblings – would be burnable. Apple’s DRM allows for purchased audio content to be burned up to 5 times, but I can’t imagine the same would be availble on the movie side of the house. It’s not possible with the television offers, and it opens the door for immediate failure – at least in the eyes of Hollywood. Apple will have to stay on top of their game and 3 steps ahead of the crafty coders out there, who are undoubtedly working already on cracking the DRM and allow for the burning of movies.

But Apple seems to be addressing this as well, with the sneak peek at their forthcoming “iTV”, set top box. Download and store to your computer, and stream wirelessly with a plethora of connectivity options to your home Television. The need to burn physical copies of media is already evaporating as media center pcs and similar solutions infiltrate the market. It only makes sense too – my 2 young sons scratch and ruin DVDs seemingly on a daily basis. Having everything safely stored on a hard drive eliminates the need to purchase movies twice, rip and backup, and so on. Apple is finally putting the last piece of the puzzle in our hands come the begnning on next year.

The solutions are all falling into place. Apple is the driving force in another evolution of mainstream technology. The key now is to maintain a shiny image and bring great results, while squashing even the smallest missteps along the way…For once, Hollywood will be watching the show unfold.

7 Responses to “Under a Microscope”

  1. points taken.

    The offering isn’t *too* shabby, but the price point is off. When it’s comparable in price to what you can buy on disc, (which comes with all the extras), it’s still a bit too high – at least in my opinion.

  2. Josh, I’m not trying to ignite a flame war but yes I did know that they bumped the res to “near dvd” quality. It’s still sub-par for DVD and will be very substandard coming across an HDMI connection to a 1080i device. I don’t know how my desire for a higher output standard, one that would truly make the price point of the media and the hardware to stream the media worthwhile, an invalid point.

    I inferred in my comment that I hope this is step one for Apple and given their iterative approach to product development I’m sure that it will be, but right now I stand behind my comment. This is a sub par product for the established price point and unlike their music store, I don’t believe that Apple has found the right approach just yet.

  3. @fallenrogue: You mentioned how it doesn’t matter what iTV offers since the movies were meant to be seen on the iPod. So I’m assuming that you weren’t aware that all the movies/tv shows/etc are at 640×480 now instead of 320×240…so they are full resolution. That basically makes your entire comment invalid. :P

  4. no dolby digital and no dts (it’s a huge part of quality of dvd “experience” )
    no subtitles
    no extra
    no documentaries stuff for example

    mostly the cost of a new dvd release

    I’m not impressed. it’s expensive for a sub-product of dvd video.

    you could say online bought musics are a “sub-product” because they don’t the little box et book of a music CD. I don’t think it matters : the music bought on itunes is still the complete content (the sound, stereo as mostly all cd music) and sometimes you can even download a pdf booklet. et the cost is really less than a cd (for new titles).

  5. I’d have to say that I’m not all that impressed with iTV and the movie offerings at iTMS. It’s not that the selection is poor, because I’m sure it will improve quickly, it’s just that the resolutions offered are sub par. Who cares if you have HDMI out from iTV if the movies that you can use with it are all meant to be seen on an iPod. I’m sure this is a baby step for a bigger plan and I hope that plan includes some true value add for the money. Cause 15 dollars is not a steal for a low res movie with zero extras that would be included on a DVD. Which, most new releases, are discounted at major outlets to below 20 bucks. There’s magic in there somewhere, I just don’t think they’ve got it yet.