Friday, April 04, 2008
Optical Media Threatened by Movie Download Services
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With several services now letting you download movies and play them right on your TV, the DVD discs as well as the currently developing market of Blu-ray discs may be under threat.
Today's video stores promise to offer near-instant delivery of
hundreds of movies, including many in high-definition, all
ordered up from the comfort of your couch. AppleTV, XBox Live and Tivo
are currently the top contenders.
However, all these services require you to shell out several hundred
dollars for special hardware first; they also demand some set-up,
and rely on a fast Internet connection.
Blu-ray entertainment also requires consumers to spend a significant
amount of money in players and high-def TV sets, but the format has
the advantage to offer high capacities which mean more HD content.
Apple TV went on sale a year ago, but it only acted as a bridge for
video and music to cross the gap between your computer and television.
The upgraded Apple TV was released last January. It allows users to
browse Apple's iTunes online store directly on a TV set. The addition
of rentals quelled complaints about the previous buy-only service.
AppleTV is currently offering 1,000 movies for rent, with about 175 of
those in high-definition. One selling point is that you can transfer
Apple TV movie and TV show purchases (but not rentals) to a computer,
iPhone or some video iPods.
Apple TV costs $229 for 40-gigabytes of storage that can store 50
hours of video, or $329 for quadruple the memory.
Microsoft's vision to provide entertainment through internet seems to
finally becomes a reality through the Xbox 360 video game console,
which offers the Xbox Live video-on-demand service.
Microsoft offers more than 300 movies for rent, about half of which
can be viewed in hi-def. Including TV shows, Microsoft says it has
more than 4,000 hours of content, while the company tries to attract
even more content by making deals with more studios.
Xbox 360 prices range from $280 to $450, but the cheapest model does
not include the hard drive you'll need to store the videos. The $350
Premium model has a 20GB hard drive and the $450 Elite ups that 120GB.
TiVo, the popular digital video recorder already in many homes is
another device that can be configured to act as a video store in a
A deal with online retailer Amazon.com lets some TiVo users rent
videos from Amazon's Unbox service. Since last July, TiVo owners have
been able to use their machines to download directly from Amazon's
TiVo owners do need to configure their machines to sync with an
Amazon.com account, and some older machines won't work. Unbox also
can't be used with TiVo service offered through the DirecTV satellite
Amazon has thousands of movies and TV shows on offer, although they
are not in hi-def yet.
TiVo boxes come in many configurations and price points, from less
than $200 to more than $600 depending on the number of tuners, the
size of the hard drive and whether it supports hi-def. There is also a
service fee that can be paid monthly or in a lump sum up front for the
life of the product.
There is a price uniformity among Apple TV, Xbox Live and Unbox. Newly
released movies cost $4 to rent, with hi-def versions going for a
Other options for downloading movies to watch on your TV include the
on-demand services cable companies are currently offering.
It is clear that in a couple of years, movies themselves are going to
be downloaded and consumed differently than they are today, as soon as
the internet connections become faster. For now, Blu-ray enjoys a good penetration and consumer awareness, according to a recent study.