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.


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