It’s Showtime for Apple

by Devanshu Mehta Sep 07, 2006

There was a time when Apple waited for the right conference to roll around before making its big announcements of the year. MacWorld on both coasts and the WWDC conferences used to be the events where Jobs unveiled his biggest prizes.

Then Apple stopped coming to the east coast MacWorld and of late, has not made a groundbreaking announcement at the other two conferences either.

This has not meant, however, that Apple has stopped making spectacular announcements. If Apple stopped going to the conferences, the conferences came to Apple.

That is what is happening on the 12th of September. Apple has called a press event with cryptic digital invites that show the Apple logo with spotlights—the kind they have on the 20th Century Fox intro—and the words “It’s Showtime” below. The event is to be held in San Francisco and will coincide with the Paris Apple Expo. The word is that the event will be broadcast in London and at the Paris event.

The implication of the invite is obvious. At the very least, Apple wants us to think that it is about to launch a movie store in the same model as iTunes music store. There are only two real questions, though: will this be the full extent of Apple’s announcement? And, what can Apple do differently that will make this catch on the way the its music store did?

Let me tackle the second question first. Part of the power of Apple’s music store is that it was offering something that no large company had offered yet- individual songs. You could get away with spending a couple of dollars at a time, which led to a lot more impulse buys and a lot more purchases based on what was that catchy song playing in the mall this morning? At ninety-nine cents, that is an easy sale. It will be tough for an Apple movie store to have that appeal until people have real media centers.

This brings me to my first question: will a movie store be the full extent of the announcement? The Apple iTunes music store needed a widely used iPod, easy-to-use iTunes software to get people to switch to the digital format, and the ability to easily burn CDs. For a movie store to catch on, all of these elements need to be in place. There need to be easy-to-use devices that allow people to view their downloaded movies on their favorite TV and easy to use software to manage those movies. And, people should be allowed to burn DVDs.

The software already exists, however broken and feature-poor it may be. The iTunes software already manages movies and Front Row already is Apple’s media centre software. The real trouble is a device that allows people to watch movies at their convenience without a long and tedious DVD burning process.

There may be many answers to that issue—a larger screen iPod, a portable video device, or a media centre Mac Mini are all viable options. Each of these must feature easy-to-use software and must have the ability to plug into a television for this service to really take off. Apple has done it in the past and the only hitch that may hold them back is the film industry itself.


  • Good questions…but…every Mac with Frontrow can play movies without burning first, doesn’t it?

    maestropaolo had this to say on Sep 07, 2006 Posts: 1
  • I think what Devanshu is trying to say is that the upcoming announcement will coincide with a new version of iTunes that can play buffered stream movies. The new iTunes can then burn that cached movie to a DVD, playable with DVD Player in Front Row.

    Still, we won’t know the exact capabilities of the new iTunes app. Will it allow you to burn that cached movie to a DVD? Will it play the movie while streaming or complete the download first?

    We now know Apple from the Disney rumours that each movie download will be $9.99 “owned” not rented. If it’s “owned” then you as the end user should have fair-use rights to burn that media onto the DVD. But that is a sensitive issue in the digital domain so let’s wait and see.

    Robomac had this to say on Sep 07, 2006 Posts: 846
  • That’s right- just like you can listen to your music on iTunes without burning it as well. But the power of being able to burn a DVD is that you can truly play that movie anywhere. A DVD is more portable than a Front-row powered Mac.

    Devanshu Mehta had this to say on Sep 07, 2006 Posts: 108
  • Airport Showtime, for streaming your movies from your computer to your TV, comes with the apple remote, and Front Row 2.0 built-in. In my opinion the movies need to be HD, even 420p, but preferably 720p.

    Ireland had this to say on Sep 07, 2006 Posts: 11
  • I don’t want to watch movies on my Mac, I want to watch them on my TV, with me lounging on the sofa in front of it. I don’t want to buy a mediacenter of any kind for the privilege. Therefore burning to DVD is essential. A streaming-from-desktop solution would also be most welcome so you do not have to

    a) wait forever for the download to complete - a major hassle by the way. It takes a lot of the instant gratification away if you can drive to the shop and pick up a DVD in the same time it takes to download.
    b) then add even more time for the DVD to be burned.
    c) hope there is no error burning or rinse & repeat.

    I would also hope Apple works out a more interesting pricing structure. All in all, albums at the iTMS *tend* to be cheaper than physical CDs. From what I see, Amazon tries to sell movies at 9,99 that go for less on DVD. No worky. But I like the 30days rental, safe for the “we delete your file within 24h” aspect.

    Bad Beaver had this to say on Sep 08, 2006 Posts: 371
  • While I do watch movies on my Mac, I understand wehre the Beave is coming from.  But the simple fact that movies run in the 1 to 2 GB range in file size make them a really unique problem. 

    I ALWAYS wait for movie files to completely download before playing.  I’d do the same for feature-length movies, so delayed gratification comes with the territory.  The same is true of Netflix movies too, of course (waiting a day until you can watch your movie), but they have largely overcome that stigma.

    One big issue for me is the quality/resolution of the video.  Amazon has attempted to overcome this problem by providing a low-rez download in addition to a full quality DVD-burnable version.  That makes sense, although your bandwidth increases accordingly.  I’m sampling Unbox right now to see how it works.

    I guess what I’m saying is that with the file sizes and broadband being what they are, there are no viable consensus solutions the way there is with music.  It’s a lot of compromise and disatisfaction.

    Beeblebrox had this to say on Sep 08, 2006 Posts: 2220
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