Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Apple Ups Ante on Internet Video On Demand

Apple now has agreements with every major Hollywood studio to provide video on demand access to major films. Apple will have 1,000 titles available for rent by the end of February 2008. Movies may be downloaded to its Apple TV set-top box or to video enabled iPods. Viewers have up to 30 days to start watching a movie, and once it has been started they have 24 hours to finish it or to watch it multiple times.

Apple's library will include 100 HD titles with 5.1 Dolby Digital surround sound. DVD-quality iTunes Movie Rentals are $2.99 for library titles and $3.99 for new releases, and HD versions are one dollar more.

With Apple TV, viewers can also view photos from their computers, Flickr and .Mac Web Galleries on their TV as slideshows or screen savers. As photos are updated on Flickr or .Mac, they are automatically updated on Apple TV. Apple TV viewers can now access the iTunes Store podcast directory of over 125,000 video and audio podcasts, view over 50 million videos from YouTube or choose from a selection of six million songs, over 600 TV shows and 10,000 music videos to purchase from their Apple TV. Purchases downloaded to Apple TV are automatically synced back to iTunes on the user’s computer for so that they can also be used on their computer, iPod or iPhone.

Apple is creating a service that may become a strong competitor to IPTV and cable video on demand services. Clearly, Apple will add more titles, but has a long way to go to compete with the 90 thousand titles that Netflix offers or the 6,000 titles that Comcast plans to offer.

Apple should catch up with Comcast's video on demand offering over the next months. Its real problem will be the delay caused by many broadband services, especially in the U.S. Even though Apple TV will support progressive download that allows the viewer to watch the movie while it is being downloaded, this may not work perfectly for SD content and may not work at all for HD content.

In any case, Apple is quite serious and is building what may become a popular method for watching on demand content on TVs.

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