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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Apple TV - Take 2 and iTunes Rentals

Steve Jobs announced an update to the Apple TV at Macworld San Francisco this week as well as iTunes Movie Rentals, which were already rumored to be part of his Macworld keynote speech.

Jobs admitted that Apple's online video plan had been a disappointment and that users didn't take to watching online video the way Apple had expected. When Jobs first announced the Apple TV last January, Apple's initial video plan was too complicated for many people. Getting a movie or TV show onto your Apple TV required customers to buy the video from the iTunes Store, download it to their computer, then sync/stream the file using an Apple TV.

Although Apple has already sold 7 million movies, Jobs said: "That’s more than everyone else put together, but it did not meet our expectations."

Apple plans on overhauling their strategy by making 2 major changes:

  1. Adding a new online movie rental service
  2. Updating the Apple TV's software so that viewers can stream movies direct from the internet sans (that's Latin for without) computer.

Jobs thinks that viewers would prefer to rent movies, not buy them. As a result, the new Apple TV software will allow users to rent first run films from every major movie studio including Fox, WB, Paramount, Universal and Sony in HD. Jobs called it "A better way to provide movies to our customers." Blockbuster and Netflix can't be happy right now.

1000 films ready for rental will be available on iTunes starting in February. Going forward, movies will be available to rent 30 days after they are released on DVD. Broadband users won't have to wait for these giant movie files to download. Moments after you rent the film using your Apple TV, it will be watchable immediately via streaming. How much are movie rentals? $2.99 to rent older titles, $3.99 for new releases. Add one more $1 to those prices if you want to rent the movie in HD.

Thomas Lesinski, president of Paramount Pictures Digital Entertainment, joined Jobs on stage at Macworld and called the rental service a "defining moment" for the distribution of digital video content. "This is really going to take things to the next level," he said.

The new Apple TV software features will be included in a free Apple TV update scheduled to be released in February. You can update your Apple TV by selecting "Update Software" from the Settings menu.



Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Steve Jobs Announces the MacBook Air

I hope you didn't buy a new Apple laptop recently. Steve Jobs announced the MacBook Air at Macworld today.

The MacBook Air is the "World's Thinnest Notebook" - even thinner than the Sony TZ, which is 0.8 to 1.2 inches thick. It's so thin it fits in a manila envelope. Seriously. See the image below! Apple's goal was to make a high performance 3 pound laptop, with a full size keyboard, and large display.

The MacBook Air is so thin, it only has 4 ports: USB 2.0, Micro-DVI, headphone jack and a MagSafe 45w power adapter plug.

So what did Apple leave out? An optical drive. If you really want one, Apple is selling an optional external USB powered SuperDrive for $99. So how do you install software or get files off of CD/DVD? Apple has a new piece of software called Remote Disc which can be installed on any Mac or PC on your wireless network and will let you borrow that machine's optical drive.

MacBook Air features:
  • Magnetic latch
  • 5 hour battery
  • multi-touch gesture trackpad
  • 13.3-inch widescreen
  • LED-backlit display
  • built-in iSight for videoconferencing
  • full-size keyboard
  • 1.6GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor
  • 2GB RAM standard
  • 80GB drive (1.8-inch hard drive. Same as in iPods.)
  • 64GB SSD option
  • 802.11n standard WiFi (N is the most advanced wireless on the market).
  • Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR

You can pre-order the MacBook Air today. Apple starts shipping them in 2 weeks.

In addition to the MacBook Air, Steve Jobs also made the following announcements at MacWorld today:



Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Paramount Drops HD-DVD

UPDATE:Paramount spokeswoman Brenda Ciccone made this statement in response to reports that Paramount is abandoning the HD-DVD format: "Paramount's current plan is to continue to support the HD-DVD format." The statement didn't specify if Paramount would also produce Blu-ray DVDs in addition to HD-DVDs. It will be interesting to see how this story pans out.

I just gave the bad new to one of the guys in the Toshiba booth at CES. He wasn't happy. Their HD-DVD focused booth looks a little silly now.

According to the Financial Times, Paramount is going to drop their support for Toshiba's HD-DVD after Warner Brothers pulled out of the HD-DVD camp last Sunday night. This will most likely put the final nail in the coffin of the HD-DVD format and end the biggest home entertainment format war since Betamax vs. VHS.

Why the sudden switch? Why did Paramount go over to Sony's Blu-ray so quickly? Insiders are saying that a clause in Paramount's contract allowed the company to drop HD-DVD in the event that Warner Bros decided to back Blu-ray.

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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

iTunes Movie Rentals - Rumors Say They Are Coming Soon

According to reports, Apple is close to announcing plans to make Fox and Disney movies available as online rentals via iTunes (US). Apple CEO Steve Jobs is likely saving the official announcement for his Macworld Expo keynote on Jan. 14.

Customers would pay a fee to download titles viewable on computers, iPods, iPhones and presumably Apple TV devices that would expire after a short window of time. Netflix, and Blockbuster's Movielink are competitors in this space.

Wal-Mart, however, has thrown in the towel. quietly pulled the plug on its video download service late last month as Hewlett Packard decided to discontinue the back-office technology that powered it. The service, popular with studios because it offered variable pricing, struggled with compatibility issues. Wal-Mart downloads could not be burned to DVDs or watched on video iPods.




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