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At the MacWorld Conference on Monday, Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced a number of things, including a really cool looking (and expensive) iPhone, but what about how his announcements concern movies?
He stated that the iTunes Store has sold 1.3 million movies since September. That's an average of 325,000 each month!
Currently, the movies that have been available have been from the Disney family of movie studios. Movies offered included Disney's Cars, The Little Mermaid, and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, Touchstone's Pearl Harbor and Annapolis, and Miramax's Cold Mountain.
Jobs announced that Paramount was now an iTunes partner, and that their movies would soon be offered on the service. A quick look today showed that movies like Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, The Hunt for Red October, Rules of Engagement, and Lemony Snicket's a Series of Unfortunate Events. And yes, even Jackass: The Movie is available...
That will raise the total number of movies from 100 to 250 by the time that all the new movies from Paramount are added.
Unfortunately, it appears that Paramount has only added "library" titles, those that are older and may have seen their best days on DVD pass already. I couldn't find any recent movies from 2006 or 2005 anywhere, but since only a few days have passed, perhaps more will be added.
What I deem to be the most disappointing part about the iTunes announcements in regards to movies is that no mention of adding high definition versions of movies was made. For example, two of the best-selling movies of 2006 were Disney's Cars and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. While both are available in widescreen format (for a reasonable $14.99 each), they do not appear to be available in high definition.
What does that matter, you say? The iPod can only play at 320x240 and who wants to sit at their computer for two hours watching a movie, even if it is in high definition? Well, that gets me to the last item from the MacWorld announcements that I wanted to bring up.
Steve Jobs announced that in February, they will be shipping a product called Apple TV. This device will play music, TV shows, movie trailers, and yes, movies downloaded directly from the iTunes store, or pick them up (and/or stream them) from computers with the iTunes software on your network (wired or wireless) and store them on its local hard drive. Here's the kicker. The only video outputs on the Apple TV are those that connect to high definition televisions. HDMI and component connectors adorn the back of the Apple TV. No S-Video, no composite, and thankfully, no RF connection. This box is intended to be used with high definition televisions!
Apple is taking orders now for the $299 device, and plans to ship them out in February. This means that I think we will see high definition versions of at least some movies on the iTunes Store. Will they be priced higher? Who knows, but I wouldn't be surprised if they did.
While I believe that including only HDMI and component outputs on the Apple TV will seriously limit its appeal (I want one, but my 32" Zenith in my living room hasn't died yet), I think Apple has a winner on its hands. When the Apple TV was pre-announced back in September (as the iTV), I felt that Apple (and to a lesser extent, Amazon.com with its Unbox effort) was firing a warning shot that should be heard by the industry, especially the Blu-ray and HD DVD manufacturers.
HDTV's were a big seller this holiday season, and more are being sold every day. Getting in the game now means that Apple can start relatively small and grow with the rising tide. Even if you don't use this new box to watch movies or TV shows (which could be real handy when the networks decide to mess around with the broadcast schedules and cause your DVR to record a partial show), it can play music and display photos across your network. An audio-only device, such as the Slim Devices Squeezebox costs $299, and you don't have the other capabilities.
These announcements may not be a huge deal to you now in regards to enjoying movies at home, but this is just the beginning. Apple just needs to put one more (HD) piece in place, and I just need to replace that trusty Zenith!
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