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Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Prediction: Movie Download Not Movie Streaming For Apple

There has been a lot of speculation about Apple developing a movie streaming service, and maybe they were, but I'm guessing they finally figured out what every consumer of broadband Internet already knows -- streaming sucks. If you want to offer a video streaming service to the consumer you need 100% dedicated wire into their house, and 100% control over the allocation of bandwidth on that wire, i.e. you need to be the cable company. And why try to compete with the cable company? Who can surmount the amazing lead Comcast has in On-Demand TV without laying their own wire?

Better to pull back, avoid the forthcoming battles between Ma Bell, Comcast, and Google over IPTV, and simply do the best job possible of offering video content for download. I for one never want to sit down at my TV with popcorn and drink in hand to watch a digitally delivered movie unless A) it is almost completely downloaded to my computer or DVR, or B) it is digitally offered by the cable company. I've got real world experience (living darn near to Silicon Valley) with both DSL and cable modems, and there is simply no guarantee they won't go out (or drastically slow down) in the middle of your show.

Sure Apple could allow you to start watching the show before it is fully downloaded, but I want a worst case guarantee it will never be paused in the middle, or better yet, an onscreen indicator of whether or not the download is keeping up with the playback. But for the most part I bet Apple is realizing they already stumbled on the perfect formula for companies other than the cable company to deliver video content with the iTunes Music Store. I'm not familiar with the Burst patents they're fighting, but if they're not in conflict with what they are already doing on the Music Store, maybe they've decided they don't need them.

Sure there must be a need for a great deal of distribution of the content to avoid a bottleneck on bits coming out of Cupertino. But I'm not sure it really takes a full-up peer-to-peer system to allow this (as Cringely suggests). Maybe just a roomful of servers in the back of every Apple Store?

Other Thoughts:

Wireless: Sure, some might say wireless (municipal or otherwise) is the wildcard, but it seems to me that those radio frequencies are already mighty crowded with cordless phones, private wireless routers, not to mention remote controlled toys! I'll wait to see if it can be any more reliable or produce any higher bandwidth than the wired broadband services.

Netflix-killer: How hard would it be for Apple to offer a Netflix-like subscription service via the iTunes Movie Store? Except it could be driven by the number of Gigabytes you locally maintain, as opposed to the number of DVDs. When you subscribe the software gives you a menu of options up to the maximum amount of free space on your system, and reserves it for exclusive use of the Movie Store.

Related Links:

AppleInsider talks about a related marketing survey. Doesn't sound Netflix-like enough for my interests. And like I said, I don't care about or trust instant-on with the broadband services I've tried.