Apple’s Cloud Storage Plan Extends to Movies, Too

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There was lots of buzz not too long ago about Apple trying to get into the streaming music service, and moving that content to the cloud to compete with services like Pandora and others who seem to be taking some of the wind out of iTunes’ sails. Now, it seems like music wasn’t the only thing the Mac maker’s been planning on moving to the cloud.

According to CNET’s sources, Apple has been in talks with major film studios about allowing iTunes customers to store their movie purchases in the cloud using the company’s servers. Add that to its possible plans to stream television and music, and you’ve got a very attractive combo for users who are getting tired of having to clear off hard drive space every few weeks.

Not only would the plan see the reduction of used HD space, which isn’t a problem for people who just want to watch something once and then delete it, but it will also allow any authorized Internet connected device to access and stream the content automatically, without the need to transfer or convert it first. In theory, then, any device with iTunes on it should be able to access the movies, including Apple’s upcoming iPad.

As details of these talks continue to emerge, it’s clear where Apple thinks the future of personal electronic devices is headed, and the popularity of streaming services like Internet radio and the Xbox’s 1080p streaming HD movie rentals suggest that Cupertino is right on the money. CNET’s source said of Apple, “[b]asically, they want to eliminate the hard drive.”

The barriers in the way of getting studios to buy in are fairly steep, at least by Apple’s standards. Reportedly, Hollywood won’t sign any deals that could see the content purchased by iTunes users limited in terms of playback to Apple devices and software. That means that for film studios to feel comfortable authorizing cloud storage, the media would have to be able to be viewed on whatever device the customer chooses, say, for instance, on a Microsoft phone and/or media player.

It’s not a deal I see Apple making, although I’m still not entirely sure that Hollywood will actually force things to go that way. For one thing, the movie studios currently allow Apple to distribute their films in Apple’s proprietary format, which makes it at least incredibly inconvenient to play it on other devices. A switch to streaming might temporarily make it impossible instead of just difficult, but I honestly don’t think iTunes customers are all that interested in playing content purchased in the iTunes store on their Nokia devices, or they’d buy from somewhere else, like Amazon.

Apple must be getting some positive indicators from these media companies, or it wouldn’t continue going around and trying to sweet-talk others into getting in on the deal. I’d say it’s a good bet that everyone’s waiting for one of the others to jump before following suit. Or for the iPad to launch so that they can gauge the consumer reach of Apple’s new wonder device.

I’m still someone who likes the option of storing my media locally, since I can’t shake the admittedly paranoid thought that one day any media I only have streaming access to could go offline forever, leaving me with nothing to show for all the money I’ve spent over the years. Still, the idea of having remote access to any movie or music all the time via any device with a network connection is definitely an attractive one. But even if that does come to pass, the question of Apple’s server reliability will inevitably come up. MobileMe took well over a year to reach a level of stability I’m comfortable with. How long would all-media streaming take to adjust?

Related GigaOM Pro Research: Do Consumers Care Where Their Content Is Stored?

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