I love baseball because you can come up empty more often than you whack something worthwhile and still wind up in the Hall of Fame. If only Apple punditry were so forgiving.
Because it’s not, I’m taking the safer course—something along the lines of an Each Way bet, since we’re drumming up the sports analogies—and musing on possible options for movies and Apple. As I see it, Apple could take this in a number of directions. As in….
Goods and delivery
What models might Apple follow to deliver movies?
Pay, download, own (sort of) Apple’s generally stuck with its initial iTunes Music Store music model. It offers up files for sale — whether audio, audiobooks, or short-form videos—you pay for what you want, and the file downloads to your computer. If you’ve purchased audio files, you own them—you can burn them to CD (thus stripping out the DRM) and have your way with them as you would with a commercial audio CD.
Videos are more limited in that you can play them only on authorized computers and iPods (or TVs attached to those authorized computers and iPods). Movies could follow this same formula. As most people prefer to watch movies on their TV, one would hope that any movies Apple sells will be of higher quality than the TV shows now offered at The Store.
With such a model Steve Jobs could reveal that currently The Store offers a limited number of movies from select studios and, as it has in both the music and television market, add other studios as they sign on Apple’s dotted line.
Subscribe [ Hat tip to Jason Snell for nudging my brain in this direction] You’ve heard it before: We consume video differently than we consume audio. You drag your music around with you for years. Movies will be watched a time or two and then forgotten. Given that, does it make sense to offer movies as you would music?
NetFlix demonstrates that people are willing to pay a set fee each month to view as many movies as they can flash before their eyes. Why not extend that kind of service to an online outfit such as iTunes?
Yes, I know “subscription” is a dirty word, but subscription music and subscription video are different beasts just as Virgin Records and Blockbuster Video are different stores.
This would require that Apple offer a far deeper catalog out of the gate and I think that’s unlikely. No one is going to sign up for a subscription that offers only a handful of Disney films. But imagine the possibilities—the major studios plus Turner’s library of classic films and you’ve finally fulfilled the dream of video on demand.
And what will those movies be played on/with?
The same iPod we have today No way.
A new iPod I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, an iPod with video is not a Video iPod . Movies want a bigger, wider screen than the 5G iPod’s 2.5-incher. An iPod about the size of the current 5G would be suitable if the iPod were turned horizontally. Apple could do this—or offer an iPod that’s a bit bigger—and satisfy a lot of people. Same drill as before. Download movies to the iPod through iTunes, watch them on the iPod or on an attached TV via the iPod’s AV cable or dock.
A new iSomething My colleague Dan Frakes has made the point a time or two that the iPod has changed the dynamic of how we use peripherals. The player is now the portable unit rather than the media. Suppose Apple extends this to a new iPod/iSomething? This features more powerful docking capabilities. Yes, you can watch movies on the thing if you want, but it’s really intended to be carted from your computer (where you download media to it) and plopped into a dock connected to your TV.
A new streaming something If the television is the ultimate destination for these movies, can Apple find a way to overcome the challenges of big data and small pipes and deliver an AirPort Express for video?
The true multimedia Mac The Mac mini coupled with Front Row, the Apple Remote Control, and a compatible digital video recorder are so close. Take the next step and do it right—Front Row provides the gateway to purchasing and watching movies as well as recording television programs ala TiVo. Serious, serious long shot, I know.
The iPhone Steve was just messin’ with you, man! Jobs trots out the long-awaited iPhone, flashes the Fandango URL on the big screen, and cautions you to whisper “Silent” into the mouthpiece when you walk into your favorite local theater.