Posted by: nickgerlich | January 16, 2008

At The Movies

It’s that time of the year again. The time when Steve Jobs gets to appear before his legions of followers and devotees at MacWorld, and unveil more new toys. Last year it was the iPhone. This year it is the new MacBook Air, a razor-thin laptop that Jobs debuted by pulling it out of a manilla envelope.

MacBook Air

Apple’s Mac sales are up considerably, increasing some 30% in 2007 to 7 million units (including two in my family). The new laptop will sell for about $1800. I’m sure my next visit to an Apple store will find my drooling over it.

But that’s not the really big news, the news that sent Blockbuster stock southbound yesterday in its wake. No, the really big news is that Apple’s iTunes will start renting movies online. Apple managed to forge relations with all six major movie studios, virtually guaranteeing great choices. Plans are to offer movie downloads shortly after the DVD release. Prices will range from $2.99 for older flicks, to $3.99 for new releases. The catalog of movies will start at 1000 by the end of February, and grow from there.

To date, only 7 million movies have been downloaded at iTunes, along with 125 million TV shows and 4 billion songs. Given the huge market share iTunes has for music downloads, it was only natural that Jobs would be chomping at the bit to see movie downloads grow similarly.

To further assist this venture, Apple has released a second generation Apple TV box that allows users to rent or purchase movies or TV shows directly on their television (assuming you have broadband for the box). And, this new box rings in at $229, down $70 from last year’s disastrous unveiling. Furthermore, you don’t even need a computer to run the Apple TV-to-Television connection.

The Big Question, though, is whether people want to download movies. Even with broadband, it can take a long time to download a 2-hour flick. You had better be on a sizzling fast cable or DSL line. And let’s face it. If you don’t have the means to view your download on a big screen TV, it’s just not going to be much fun watching it on your computer monitor.

Just as Netflix rocked our universe with their then-novel approach to renting movies, Jobs hopes that we will do away with all those tangible rentals, and go strictly for the digital.

There are limits to the new movie download model, including having 30 days to view the movie, and only being able to complete it in a 24-hour window. In other words, no starting it today, and finishing it on the weekend. No mention was made of multiple viewings.

But the real genius in all of this is that Jobs is steadily getting Apple products and services into our lives. Think iPods, iTunes, and iPhones. Maybe it won’t be long until you’re ready to buy one of those cool MacBook Air units.

Dr “Apple A Day” Gerlich

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