Wednesday, August 3

Good prospects for the video iPod and Apple movie store

Well the latest tidbit about Apple floating around blogosphere may seem like a little thing it's a sure sign Apple is gearing up to make a major move into movie and possibly TV based content the same way they've conquered the digital music market. Possibly as soon as September. It's a rumor that's been gaining credibility and attention for quite a while now.

That I'm so excited and interested is not that I'm a mac fanatic (although i am a fan) it's that I'm a media fanatic and Apple just happens to be the only one who's able to competently put together digital media solutions that will heal the huge void between the stodgy traditional media who refuse to set foot in the digital world and the p2p crowd that's going there without them.

In case you haven't heard already the little news with big ramifications is that Apple has updated their trademark for the iPod to include video.

"Well, this will certainly add some fuel to the fire on those
video iPod rumours — Apple has updated its trademark for
the iPod from “portable and handheld digital
electronic devices for recording, organizing, transmitting, manipulating, and reviewing text, data, and audio files” to
read “portable and handheld digital electronic devices for recording, organizing, transmitting, manipulating, and
reviewing text, data, audio, image, and video files.”
— from Engadget

This would seem to give a whole lot more legitimacy to the rumors that the iPod will soon support video and even more importantly the rumor that Apple will soon have a movie download service similar to the Apple music store, as rumored to be called iVideo by famed PBS technology columnist Robert X. Cringley. When and if Apple does start selling movies for download I'll be the first one to ditch Netflix and Blockbuster and go nuts buying movies on Apple. In short though I've held out an not bought a single song from the Apple Music Store I can't wait to drop some money on downloadable movies.

Do to the fact there are no other solutions that are profitably or otherwise delivering movie downloads means all Apple needs is a decent selection to start with and to find the right price point. They've already proven their business model works for digital music and established a trusting market with the Apple Music Store. Why would movies and/or TV shows be any different?

I would have though the mac fanatics at Spymac would have created fifty different mock prototypes by now, but this little picture is all I could find. Usually they're as creative as they are prodigious.

A full size version is available here.

To expand on Apple rumors and perhaps start some of my own...

I'm basing this on nothing but my own speculation but I'm thinking $3 or $4 per movie would compete nicely with Blockbuster and Netflix. Rumors have it that videos could start at as little as a $1.99 and while I am hopeful I wouldn't be surprised if they started at $5 or more per movie. I could argue value points all day, but basically it won't change that we just don't know what Apple will find a good starting price point. There are far more interesting subjects worthy of debate.

First, of course much like Apple's music store all this video content will have DRM (digital rights management), but I'm not too worried about that because I have faith that the open source community will put every effort into breaking it, and rightfully so. DRM won't work on 3rd party portable video players, without cracking the DRM it will be the iPod or nothing. Second and more importantly Apple has never supported Linux and hence videos won't play on linux without a DRM crack.

That said I'm not here to debate DRM, I'm just going to assume most readers understand that DRM puts itself directly in conflict with the individuals rights for fair use while creating fundamental accessibility and usability issues. DRM is in my an many other more qualified peoples opinions, simply a bad and very misguided attempt to thwart piracy.

The truth is that majority of piracy simply does not happen in the home, but in large scale professional operations around the world. Fingerprinting technology would be much more effective and detecting and understanding piracy so that in the future we can understand it better.

That said, I apologize but I can't help but talk about DRM for a couple paragraphs, please just skip this if you find it tedious.

DRM is bad because it assumes that the few can determine with a high degree of exactness all the possible usage rights for the content. By placing those rules in the code they take the choice that law provides for us over right or wrong out of the hands of the people and the courts and embeds the content owners ideas of what is right or wrong into the technology itself.

In order for law to be just and equitable it has to be open to reinterpretation. Put another way, in order for law to retain the respect and authority of the people it has to be accessible to the people for they are what give it authority in the first place. Removing the courts and human judgment from law has in the past, just as it is now, created era's of epidemic lawlessness. DRM assumes an authoritarian control that presupposes law a very, very scary future where legislation in effect like the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) effectively hands the creators complete control under the law regardless of wether the DRM contradicts fair use rights or if the proposed usage is even good for society at all.

Luckily while the act of breaking DRM for the purpose of fair-use remains illegal under the DMCA other allowances in the law still allow tools to be created and distributed that can break DRM on the basis that they have "legitimate legal uses". A precedent established by court case simply referred to as the Sony Betamax Case. However this precedent is being threatened with the recent MGM vs. Grokster case which would suggest that any software or services created with the "intent" to break the law could be held liable. Intent, being an impossible thing to prove and opening software creators, service providers, and businesses up to tremendous liabilities and potential court fees though they in theory may have done nothing wrong. In short we're treading a very fine line with seaming no easy solution and having catastrophic consequences for the future of digital media.

That said I'm not writing this to bitch about DRM, so I'm getting back off this point. Wether Apple's rumored movie store has DRM or not I'm buying in because I'm certain that when the DRM gets in the way of my right to fair use under the law, that they'll be tools around to simply break the DRM so I can function within the spirit of the law when the overly exacting letter of the law as codified in DRM fails as it inevitably will.

The real unanswered question therefore is not "is DRM acceptable", but will I truly be able to "own" videos or will Apple just "rent" them?

For what my opinion is worth, I'm guessing Apple will offer "ownership" of purchased content not just "rental" because ownership, as Apple has found with music, is a very important part of the value proposition for customers in the digital realm. Just because customers of digital goods don't have anything physical or tangible such as a DVD or CD doesn't mean that ownership is any less important to them. In fact it would seem that ownership is even MORE important to purchasers of digital goods if only because "rental" prospects for digital goods are so fraught with technical problems.

Rented music services like the new Napster and Real Media's music service are doing very poorly even though they offer "all you can eat" music specials, because they offer no ownership. As soon as you stop paying Yahoo and Real Media the entire music library you've built becomes useless and unplayable. For the majority of people I know life is to short to waste time putting together a music collection that one day will just cease to exist.

That said, movies may be a slightly different beast than music for Apple. These files are going to very likely be around 700mb in size. That makes long term management of movies a much more complex issue than music which has an average file size of around 5mb. Also, given that the movie industry is driven by movie rentals Apple will be competing with movie rental businesses like Blockbuster and Netflix. This as opposed to the music business where Apple is competing not against rentals, but purchased music. The business of movies is admittedly quite different than music.

It may well be that Apple sees the value proposition for videos differently than they see it for music. It may be that they see movies as a one time use media, a purchase that people watch once or twice and which then looses its value. Therefore Apple may well go into the digital movie rental business. It's unlikely given their stance on music ownership, but it is still possible.

Personally, I'm really hoping that Apple continues to recognize the importance of ownership in the digital age. I do personally agree that digital goods consumers are to savvy and to jaded to put their faith in digital "rental" services.

So now that we've discussed the potential Apple movie store, what does the video iPod bring to the digital media equation?

  1. Watch videos anytime.... You'll be able to get movies and possibly TV on demand, no more schlepping to the store, waiting for Netflix, programing the Tivo, or sitting through commercials. For broadband users you should be able to pick out any movie or show you want to watch from Apple's selection and watch it immediately or with some minor delay while it downloads or caches.

  2. Watch videos anywhere... with the Video iPod, you'll have the additional benefit of taking this media with you on the subway, plane, el, train or wherever it is you're off to so you can watch it not just anytime, but anywhere.

  3. Anyone can create and broadcast their own media. Finally we get to the REALLY, REALLY important point. Pardon my beating around the bush with all of the above, but once Apple comes out with the video iPod video for the first time will start to be as portable as audio.... Given Apple's great support of audio podcasting it is quite likely that video bloggers and anyone with a video camera, computer, and internet access will be able to create their own videos and share them over the internet with a simple RSS syndication feed.

    Not only will everyone be able to share videos for watching on computers, but with the video iPod these videos will be able to be watched anywhere and anytime they want. This includes plugging the video iPod into the TV or watch videos while flying in a jet at 30,000 feet. Personal video communications will finally be ubiquitous and on par with professional communications. The playing field for rich media will be level. ...for some of us. ;) The rest of the world may take a long time to catch up.

    But, it hasn't happened yet, so just keep praying and anticipating Apple's release of the video iPod and an Apple "movie store". It'll be a one-two punch that absolutely no one else is in a position to pull off, and it's looking like it might be in time for Christmas. :)

    Mac Rumors: Apple Expands iPod Trademark to Include Video

1 comment:

Michael Meiser said...

Hmm... not sure if this is a bot or not. But I'll byte.. beware, I'm vicious towards bots... I figure if they've got enough balls to leave a name, phone and email I'll give him the benifit of the doubt, but that "technology owl" post seems like a test post. We shall see.