Commentary

The Apple Movie Store

While doing my weekly ritual of visiting the Apple Store online and reconfiguring the 15- and 17-inch MacBook Pro models, contemplating the power vs. portability issue, then thinking about how I should just get the Mac Pro desktop and max it out for about $17,000 and never leave my desk, I happened upon the video of Steve Jobs' latest press conference.

ITunes 7 is a nice improvement over its predecessor, the album cover artwork feature is truly great, and the new iPods are nice too. People will probably like the aluminum-covered iPod Nano better than the earlier models, which, like the iPod Video, scratches very easily.

The new, much-anticipated, iTV set-top box has an interesting feature set, and it may or may not capture the imaginations of an average consumer. After all is said and done, it's not much more interesting than attaching your fully loaded iPod video to your television set. And it may not be as useful.

The Apple iTV unit shown at the press conference did not have a composite video output (good old-fashioned analog video), so you actually can't hook it up to a television set (or videotape recorder), it must be hooked up to a video monitor through either HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface - a DVI interface that transfers uncompressed digital video with HDCP copy protection and multichannel audio) or by using component video connectors. (Oddly enough, content owners have the right to defeat the component video outputs on many HD-DVD and BlueRay DVD players because of the potential piracy issues. Will Apple have to defeat these output on certain titles? If so, how will people who only have component video connectors into their monitors know that they won't be able to see what they've downloaded? Hmmm ...)

As you know, technology (especially playback technology) is absolutely useless without something of value to play back. The most interesting thing that Mr. Jobs has brought to market is movies. Apple has doubled the resolution of its movie downloads to 640x480 - it is a very big improvement. I downloaded "Pirates of the Caribbean" in 54 minutes, transferred it to my iPod Video in about a minute and literally ran into my living room to see if I could justify a "near" DVD price for "near" DVD quality.

For this test, I placed my 60GB iPod Video in the docking station that came with my 60GB iPod Photo and attached the S-video cable to a 60" Sony Plasma Monitor; audio came directly from the headphone jack using standard analog audio cables into the auxiliary input of my 5.1 home theater system. What I experienced was truly fantastic! The picture was in a letter box 2.60:1 (approximately 18x8) on my 16x9 monitor, the color was rich and, as promised, the resolution was near DVD quality. The audio was excellent as well. For 99.9 percent of the potential viewing audience, this is an experience that will rival what they can actually expect from their existing home entertainment systems.

But! And you knew there was a "but" coming, the price per download ($14.99 for new releases and $9.99 for library titles) is very steep. Want to feel some consumer push back? Go check out the consumer reviews for "High School Musical" at the Apple Music Store. People love the movie, they just hate the price.

Where this all leads in anyone's guess. Apple may change its pricing structure, but that won't make offline retailers very happy. In the meantime, do yourself a favor and download a movie from the Apple Store. You will see the future and it will make you smile!

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