Movie Studios Play Right Into Steve Jobs' Hands

from the history-repeating dept

There's been a fair bit of talk lately about ongoing talks between Apple and Hollywood movie studios so that Steve Jobs and Co. can start selling movies through iTunes. Apparently the sticking point is that the studios "aren't going to tolerate what he did to the music labels" -- meaning they want more money, and more control. What they don't seem to realize, though, is that it was the record labels that made Apple so powerful in the music business, by insisting the music it sells be locked down with DRM. While the DRM may make copying the files more difficult, what it really does is lock consumers in to the iPod and the iTunes store. Should a label pull out of the store, consumers can't, and won't, go elsewhere to buy its music -- unless the labels would sell it without DRM. So, if the movie studios want to avoid such a situation, they should insist Apple sell their movies without copy protection. Of course, this would force them to confront their irrational fears about file-sharing and piracy, so it's unlikely to happen, but it would give them significant leverage over Jobs and his demands if Apple had to face the possibility of competing for iTunes users' media buying. The studios already "compete with free", so allowing the sale of unprotected, low-quality files wouldn't empower much more file-sharing. It would, however, give the movie studios the upper hand with Apple. Consumers, at least the honest ones that DRM "keeps honest", would still use iTunes because of its convenience, and the security of downloading media from a trusted source -- just as tens of millions iTunes users do with music today. Insisting on the use of DRM, and allowing Apple to use its proprietary approach, essentially grants Jobs a monopoly to sell their content to iPod users, and he exploits this to wring low prices and other concessions from content providers.
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  1. identicon
    Topher3105, 21 Jun 2006 @ 10:32am

    Apple movie store will bomb

    At a time the industry is turning to high definition, Apple will offer poor quality, overly compressed movies for a specific device. Haven't we seen this fail already? (UMD anyone).

    Given that I don't know what to expect from Apple's next generation TRUE video iPod, here is pretty much why selling movies at the iTMS will fail:

    1) Apple won't offer 1gb+ high definition quicktime videos. Trailers are topping 100mb for 2 minutes of high definition content, Apple won't offer a 90 minute feature films topping 3gb. Therefore, Apple's movie offering will support 5G video (320 x 240) or possibly some widescreen version of the iPod that will still be less then standard definition in order to keep file sizes low. The format will also be overly compressed, reducing its quality. Apple WON'T support surround sound either, making the file size smaller. Apple doesn't even support Digital 5.1 surround sound on their comoputers, so the iPod won't have it.

    2) Apple won't offer HDMI upconverting or support in their iPod product line. This will add too much licensing and technology costs to their iPod product, making it too expensive to sell. Apple will stick to composite and s-video modes (probably won't support component video either). Remember, Apple is targeting movies for the iPod products, NOT as movies shippable to be played on full featured computers. The movie formats will be crippled to the capabilities of the iPod hardware.

    3) Apple will sell movies only. There will be no special features or additional content, except as individual downloads. Apple WOULD be smart to create some kind of compressed DVD file that would include menus and content, but I doubt Apple will do this. Apple will not want to spend the time and money to repackage movies into some all-in-one format, and the industry will not bother either. Apple isn't even doing digital booklets right for CD's. I mean, why can't the digital booklet be viewable in iTunes or on an iPod? People want and care about the special features on DVD's, its part of the reason the format was so quickly adopted. It offers more value for the money then just shipping the movie alone.

    4) Who actually wants to watch a movie on a tiny screen for 2 hours. When you hold something in your lap for 2 hours ( I don't think you going to hold it up for 120 minutes) and have to crane your neck to watch it, it becomes very unenjoyable to watch, quickly. Also, I am sure Apple won't implement LCD's with fast refresh rates in their next generation iPods. THis means that video output will be blurred and ghosting will occur, as on other video players like the PSP and 5G iPods. This causes some people to get headaches and nausea after a short period of time. Most people actually hate watching a movie on a tiny screen, except if your 5 years old and have an 8 hour road trip to take.

    People won't want to pay $9.99 for a movie that looks like crap, has no special features, and must be handicapped in order to support the iPod on a tiny screen.

    Movies iare not analogous to music. Music can be listened to while doing something else, movies require full attention. Music can be listened to for short durations, movies require hours of time. Music can be downloaded quickly in high quality formats, movies must be crippled in quality in order to make them small enough in size to be quickly downloaded.

    Even though it is Apple, Apple will still fail to make online movies as successful as online music, as the idea of online movies played on tiny screens is a failed concept in general.

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