Sunday, September 24, 2006

Thoughts on Apple's movie strategy

Yesterday's story in the New York Post that Wal-Mart was threatening some movie studios with retaliation if they sold movies on the iTunes Store, and Wal-Mart's subsequent dispute of the allegations, got me to thinking again about Apple's move into the movie distribution business.

Some people were predicting Apple would start a movie download service, along with some sort of streaming device, as early as 18 months ago. And let's face it, it's probably going to be another six months before Apple starts selling its "iTV" device, by which time, the company will probably have a few more studios lined up to sell their wares through the newly named iTunes Store.

So, come next March or April, we Mac users will likely have a new operating system in the name of Leopard, a fairly good range of movies in the iTunes Store from which to choose and a way to get those newly purchased flicks onto our HDTVs (we'll overlook for the moment that these movies won't be in HD).

Now I admit I'm not the typical consumer of movies. I rarely go to the movie theatre and rent maybe two or three DVDs a year, mostly because the offerings are decidedly mediocre, and it's a PITA to drive down to Blockbuster (or wherever) to rent a DVD. That said, if I could watch a movie on Saturday night with a click of a mouse, I'd probably be much more inclined to partake of Hollywood's fine products. But a few things will have to change before I jump on this bandwagon (and assuming of course that movies will be available in the Canadian iTS before the turn of the next century).

First and foremost is that I'm not interested in buying movies. I have no desire to own a collection of movies like I own a music collection, and I suspect I'm not the only one. There are those who go out and buy movies at Wal-Mart, but most people rent movies; after all who wants to watch a so-so movie more than once, especially when Hollywood pumps out a seemly endless flow of them? So the lack thus far of a way to rent downloaded movies is a huge drawback for me. I just want to pay a few dollars to watch a movie once, and I might even pay a little extra to NOT have to drive down to Blockbuster to get it. Four or five bucks a pop would be about my threshold. More than that and I'm just not going to bother.

Which brings me to my other main hesitation: price. Even if I were interested in buying a movie, why would I pay $15 for an "almost DVD quality" movie when I can get the real thing at Wal-Mart for the same price and get more features to boot, AND, have the physical DVD (which I cannot have with movies from iTunes)? Ten bucks seems about right to me, so Apple's not that far off the mark, and there are some titles available for that price. I suspect that Steve Jobs agrees with me on this one but had to concede the argument to Disney or risk not launching before Christmas.

I also find the iTV unit a little pricey, but I can see it coming down in price at some point. The fact remains, however, that there are still a number of obstacles to this service becoming really ubiquitous, and I suspect that in my case it will be at least another two years before I'll be downloading any movies from the iTS. But then again, I bought my first iPod 18 months ago, so I'm hardly an early adopter. In 18 months, everyone will be clamouring for an iTV and downloading movies like crazy, and Apple and the movie studios will be making money hand-over-fist, so we'll all be happy as clams. Just you wait, Mr. Cringely. As usual, you're way ahead of yourself.

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Thursday, September 21, 2006

New podcast reveiw is up at the Podcritical Review

Over at the Podcritical Review, I take a look at a nifty new tech podcast from down under: Bran. Check it out.

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Now that summer is over, I guess I should start taking this blog a little more seriously. After all, blogging is serious business (if Gates says it, it must be true, even if that story is from over two years ago). My how things have changed.

To start things off, I thought I'd write about something dear to my heart: RSS readers. One of my readers suggested I give the open source reader Vienna a try. I usually pride myself on keeping tabs on the Mac open source community, but somehow, this nifty little app slipped under my radar.

I started my RSS journey with Safari and was soon hooked. And while Safari's RSS capabilities are limited, I was quite happy with them--until I gave NetNewsWire a real workout, that is. NNW changed the way I used the Internet; many feel it's the gold standard by which all other RSS apps--Mac or PC--are judged. And with good reason. It's a really excellent, full-featured RSS reader. What makes it so powerful is that along with regular feeds and podcasts, you can also subscribe to tags, scripts, search engines queries and the like.

Now Vienna doesn't have NNW's full feature set, but if, like me, you don't really use most of that fancy stuff, then you might want to consider Vienna. It does pretty much everything that NNW's free cousin, NNW Lite, does, and it does it with style. You can arrange your feeds into groups, you can modify how articles appear and you can create smart groups. However, like NNW Lite, Vienna doesn't do podcasts or syncing, nor does it allow you to subscribe to tags or search engines.

The latest stable release of Vienna is 2.0.4, but this version doesn't allow for manual sorting of feeds; instead, it sorts feeds alphabetically by default. For me, this was a potential a deal breaker; happily, though, the latest preview version, which as of this posting is 2.1, does offer manual sorting, and thus far, it has been quite stable.

The nice thing about Vienna is that because it's open source, it will only get better. Personally, the only main feature it lacks is syncing, and frankly, I can live without it. Give it a try. I think you'll like it too, and you'll be supporting the open source community.

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Saturday, September 09, 2006

Chanton le magazine pomme!

I went to my first Apple Store opening today, the one opening in Carrefour Laval, just north of Montreal, and, somewhat to my surprise, it was kind of fun. I certainly didn't camp out or anything, and in fact I only arrived at about 8:30--a half hour before the official opening. By that time there were already many hundreds of people in line. I'm glad I went with a couple of buddies or the two-hour wait to get in might have been tedious. As it was, we had a good time chewing over all the rumours about the upcoming September 12 announcement(s).

We got in at about 10:45, picked up our t-shirts (which are very high quality and made in the US "sweatshop free" t-shirts) and bummed around the store for a half-hour. I checked out the new MacBooks, which I had never seen before and I must admit being drawn to them. No wonder Apple can't keep them in the stores.

The staff was very upbeat and friendly, as one would expect, and it was all in all a very satisfying experience. If Apple ever does open up a downtown Montreal store, I'll definitely be there for the opening.

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