LA Times: With iTV+iTunes Movies, Steve Jobs stumbles over the last 100 feet

“Oh look — a new gadget from Apple! It’s a … $300 set-top box. (Groan.) I’ll go out on a pretty stout limb today and predict that the combination of Apple’s iTV box and its new downloadable film store won’t have a fraction of the impact on the movie-distribution business that the iPod and 99-cent downloadable songs had on the music industry. The reason goes beyond Steve Jobs’ inability to persuade studios other than Disney (where Jobs is a board member) to accept a significantly lower wholesale price for a download than they charge for a physical product. The main problem here is that Hollywood and movie fans don’t seem ready to make the same leap into the virtual world that the music industry made (albeit reluctantly). They’re too committed to bits encased in plastic. And Apple doesn’t provide a way to convert its downloads into DVDs, at least not yet,” Jon Healey writes for The Los Angeles Times.

“One of the reasons downloadable music took off, I think, is that the shift from CDs to song files improved the user experience in… notable ways,” Healey writes. “Contrast that with the situation in Hollywood, where the shift from DVDs to movie files is yielding few, if any, benefits for viewers. The price for downloadable movies isn’t dramatically better than the price for a disc at Wal-Mart, in part because the studios don’t want to antagonize retailers who are selling so many DVDs. There’s no legal way to put your entire movie collection onto a computer or portable device — DVDs are encrypted, so they can’t be ripped legally the way CDs can. So there’s no way to carry all your movies around with you, nor to mix and match your favorite scenes from a variety of flicks into a customized video (not that you’d want to; unlike a CD, a movie isn’t a collection of severable pieces of entertainment).”

“There’s also what industry insiders call the ‘last 100 feet’ problem, referring to the gap between the typical home’s computer and its living-room TV set. The obvious solution would be to burn the downloaded film onto a DVD,” Healey writes. Apple “showed only one way to get a movie from a Mac or PC to the TV: the new iTV box, which is due early next year. This box will let you beam music and movies securely from a computer to a digital TV set, provided that the TV is equipped with the right kind of digital input (technically, HDMI or DVI with HDCP for those of you who like acronyms). I really like the idea of Apple providing a way to move video securely over a home network — there are plenty of folks who have tried, but I’ve yet to find a living-room device that handled encrypted content really well. Still, given how few people have digital TVs with the right kind of digital inputs, I don’t see an online movie store succeeding in the near term without the ability to burn DVDs.”

MacDailyNews Note: Healey’s wrong: iTV will offer component video and audio for older TVs, too.

Healey asks, “What does the iTV box offer that a DVD player can’t do for significantly less money? Yes, you can use it to watch the copy of “Finding Neverland” that you downloaded for $10, but you could find the film on DVD for about the same price and get more content (Apple’s not including the bonus DVD features in its downloads). It would be a more compelling device if it could let you watch any movie in your collection, but again, you can’t — they’re not on your computer, they’re stuck on DVD. So what unique thrill does Apple provide? Watching two-hour movies on an iPod screen smaller than your credit card?”

Full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Healey really, really loves plastic discs, doesn’t he? He’s the one who’s “too committed to bits encased in plastic.” Unfortunately Healey’s love of DVDs is hindering his ability to think outside the box. No, Apple doesn’t offer a way to rip DVDs like they do for music CDs (you can thank Hollywood for that situation). So use HandBrake and rip them like the rest of us. Done.

Now you’ve got all of your DVDs ripped onto your Mac or PC hard drive and, with iTV, you’re all set. Also, does Healey grasp that Apple’s 80GB iPod can put 100 hours – or approximately 57 full-length feature films – in your pocket? How much do 57 DVDs weigh? Take your 5.5 ounces iPod to your riend’s house, plug it into the TV with a $19 wire and watch ’til you drop. Isn’t that a notable advantage right there? How about just not having to get up and search through shelves of DVDs to load into your DVD player when you can simply find your film with a few clicks of a remote? Another advantage. Convenience is yet another. Bet you can think up some more. Healey doesn’t get it.

Steve Jobs gives sneak peek of Apple’s “iTV” wireless set-top box:

Related articles:
BusinessWeek: If anyone can make bridge the great divide, Apple can with ‘iTV’ – September 14, 2006
The Beeb asks: Would you buy the Apple iTV? – September 14, 2006
Three markets that are different today after Apple’s ‘It’s Showtime’ event – September 13, 2006
Cramer: Apple’s ‘iTV’ all about ease-of-use; Apple shares are going higher – September 13, 2006
Apple + Living Room = Logical Marriage + Boon for Stockholders – September 13, 2006
The Register: Apple event more like ‘No Show’ than ‘Showtime’ – September 13, 2006
The Telegraph: Steve Jobs’ genius making people desire gadgets for which they have absolutely no use – September 13, 2006
The Guardian: Steve Jobs needs ‘a charisma download, Apple risks being left behind’ – September 13, 2006
Mark Cuban: Things that are special about Apple’s announcements – September 13, 2006
Apple’s ‘iTV’ strategy – September 13, 2006
How will Apple’s ‘iTV’ work? – September 13, 2006
The Observer’s iPod FUD: Apple iPod is ‘wilting away before our eyes’ – September 10, 2006
Apple eyes living room market with device codenamed ‘iTV’ – September 12, 2006
Analyst: Apple ‘s iTunes+iPod+iTV model ‘the gold standard for the digital home of the future’ – September 12, 2006
Analyst: Apple ‘s iTunes+iPod+iTV ‘will be hard for other players to match’ – September 12, 2006
Apple gives sneak peek of ‘iTV’ set-top box to debut Q1 2007 (with images) – September 12, 2006
Apple’s QuickTime stream of Steve Jobs special event now live – September 12, 2006
NFL and Apple team up to offer 2006 NFL game highlights via iTunes Store – September 12, 2006

70 Comments

  1. I was thinking that while the iTV box was reasonably priced at 300 bucks, there’s no way in hell that I’m gonna buy movies for 10 bucks.

    Then I tried the iTunes trailer for Pirates on my laptop and hooked it up to my 46 inch HDTV. To be honest the picture wasn’t bad. Not as sharp of course as HDTV, but pretty close to what DVDs have to offer.

    Then I thought, well I have a lot of DVD’s taking up a lot of space. Wouldn’t it be cool if I could rip those at DVD resolution and have iTunes manage my video library and play it through iTV.

    And basically that is what I think iTV will allow people to do. Maybe not officially sanctioned by Apple, but software is already availble to do that. Given that the Pirates movie was 1.3 GB, I guess each movie would take 2 GB at DVD resolution. That over 100 DVD’s per 250 GB hard drive.

    Just like iTunes initially allowed peeps to manage all their CDs and the iPod to rediscover their music, so iTunes and iTV will do the same for videos.

  2. Unfortunately, this is another writer that is clueless as to how technology progress is made. DVDs did not replace VHS in one fail swoop overnight, nor will the next evolutionary step in movie viewing. His comments regarding connectivity to only digital TVs is a clue to his cluelessness.

    What was more compelling to me than the movie store is the ability to play my music and photo content on my TV/stereo in the other room. I had been contemplating the purchase of an iPod dock, but this is much better and more elegant. Over time, as the video quality increases and downloads include the additional “extras” that come on DVDs, I will be more inclined to use the movie service. Actually, this would be a good candidate for a movie subscription model. If I could watch all the movies I wanted, I might even be fine with the lower video quality and cancel my Netflix account.

  3. The iPod took a couple years to really get traction with consumers and I assume this will too. I already watch TV shows on my iPod and TV with the Apple video cable. It is great! I also use it for teaching, using my iPod to store video clips for training is so much simpler that having to tote around a DVD player, remote, cables and DVDs. I will probably get one of these boxes as it will make my TV and movie watching more convenient and enjoyable. I think Apple is definately on the right track here.

    Also, who in there right mind thinks that Apple is having trouble getting movie companies to join up with iTunes? Disney is not going to be the only one to offer movies, they are going to be the FIRST one… Followed by all the rest. Apple started small with music and with TV shows. Steve went through great pains to show, several times, how they started with only a few TV shows and added new shows every month and now have hundreds.

    I really believe that most journalists are that only in name – they CLEARLY don’t do much if any research or original thinking on the subjects they write about. This guy is no exception.

  4. Healey is right. The price differential between DVDs and download is only a few dollars – that means you need a huge HD, a new ‘n’ spec airport transmitter and a $300 set top box to save yourself the trouble of getting off your butt and inserting a dvd into a slot.

  5. As someone who bought a (relatively) big wide-screen LCD TV last year and 5.1 sound system, I’ve also been buying a lot more DVD movies. I’ve had to slow down my purchases because I’m running out of room to store the DVDs.

    I think this electronic format and storage will definitely be the way people will store and watch entertainment in the near future. It will be more convenient to store, transfer, and organize collections.

    As for iTV’s $299 price tag, well, many people were already buying a $599 Mac Mini to do the same job. Plus, I bet loads of people paid $150, $300, or more for a speaker system that works with their iPod. Compared to those speakers, this iTV device is not expensive.

  6. What this guy doesn’t understand is that, it’s how you purchase your content.

    If you buy a DVD, you need a DVD player to play it. (Copying into your machine and then using iTV is a tedious route).

    If you buy the content from iTunes, then you want iTV to play it (Burning a DVD then playing it using iDVD is a tedious route).

    The bet here is that most people are simply going to buy the content using iTunes. Some may not do that because of quality.

    2007: I still think Apple should release this product with a DVD player installed in it. That way, the users get best of both worlds.

    2008: Put the whold iTV + DVD Player + Plasma TV as one unit (just like the iMac now); and give us one simple mechanism to view everything on the TV itself.

  7. Well, just because a new technology will require updated hardware is not a reason not to introduce it. I’m loving Front Row & Handbrakes. I can control my entire music library, videos, home movies, pictures, and macbook dvd player with an incredibly simple remote. The macbook has hooked up w/ my entertainment center quite nicely. Apple has basically killed my CD player and now the dvd player. What next?

    I might lean toward a mac mini over the iTV in order to have DVD function when I make the jump. . . .

  8. don’t forget people are smarter than everybody thinks…

    ripping DVD’s to your hard-drive is soooo easy today, my 5 year old niece can do that…

    iTV has to be able to play those ripped movies to the connected TV, otherwise it’s gonna be a flop big time… so divx/avi’s have to playable, not just .mov’s and of course the h.264 codec within… itunes and ipod got big because it let’s mp3’s coexist with mp4/aac, so people can mix their illegal downloaded stuff with legit-able ripped or bought music… it’s about choice… MS never gave people the real choice, that’s why they failed…

    and on top the interface for iTV is going to be easy, not the over crowded remote we’re all used to from the japanese manufacturers…

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