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First gripes

With euphoria of new announcements comes a bit of a hangover. Time to do a reality check (read on if you want my gripes and predictions):

  • Syncing your own video to the iPod: "Learn how to use QuickTime 7 Pro to export your home movies to iTunes and sync them to your new iPod." Even with a healthy amount of reality, part of me hoped that I might be able to sync DVDs in the future to the iPod, but it doesn't even appear that you can even sync your own home videos without a bunch of extra hassle. Video has yet to have the equivalent of stick the CD in your computer and the music ends up on your iPod. Also, the separation of features between QuickTime and QuickTime Pro always makes me wonder about Apple's priorities.
  • iTunes Music Store + Video: It seems that Jobs didn't give the iTunesMS enough lead time to actually make it so that you could browse the videos there (update: it all appears fixed now). You pretty much have to have direct links in order to find the TV shows, there's no way I can find of browsing to them. If you click on Lost on the front page then on "TV Shows" you are taken to a browse menu where you can browse for... music. The only way I've found of viewing the Pixar shorts was going to the Apple.com homepage and clicking on the ad there. iTunes also seems confused as to what should happen when you try to preview an episode of Lost (it tries to play, but then does nothing).
  • That 320x240 resolution: this gets more pesky the more I think about it. My low-def TV has higher resolution than this. My PSP has higher resolution than this. With all that Jobs has said about nobody wanting to watch tiny video on a handheld, why would he release video that only looks good when viewed tiny?(yes, it's probably bandwidth, but...) It really racks my brain when I think about the idea of watching TV shows on an iMac (this is the whole point of Front Row, right?). The 1680x1050 screens on the iMacs are wasted with 324x240 video -- you might as well mount a magnifying glass in front of your new iPod.

My music store complaints seem temporary. I'm not sure what to make of the other two. iTunes was designed before Apple had any hint of a music store. Now they are in the position where they want to make money off all the content that ends up on your iPod (as well as 10% on anything that connects to your iPod). This stance is similar to Sony and is one of the reasons why they've failed miserably to innovate in this market. Jobs is also pretty cozy with Pixar/Disney in the same way Sony is cozy with its music and movie divisions.

As for the small video size, perhaps they'll upgrade it in the future. I watch 324x240 video on my PSP all the time and it's fine, but the PSP is a much better video playback device than the iPod. I have to imagine and predict that Apple will release a true "iPod Video" in the future with a physically larger screen for video viewing because as cool as the new iPods are, they are too small. They will also have to do something to make Front Row more exciting. The obvious hole is that Front Row doesn't record video. It looks like a TiVo, it plays video/songs/photos like a TiVo, it has a remote, but it doesn't record? Adding the ability to record will mean higher resolution video and Apple could use this feature as leverage to make you sign up for a .Mac account.

Another hole in Front Row is the ability to watch on a TV. davextreme calls this a "furniture problem," others have referred to it as the "lean-forward/lean-backward" issue. One solution that's long been rumored is adding video out to AirPort Express. I don't know how they'll handle the remote issue (802.11/Bluetooth?), but you can't have a digital media electronics empire without the TV.

Comments (4)

M Author Profile Page:

In addition, the new iTunes/Quicktime plugin appears to crash my browsers at work so I haven't been able to watch any of the video.

At first I thought FrontRow was the wireless remote, but now I've found out it's an iMac application. FrontRow seems to be an attempt to combat Windows Media Center, but you're correct -- without record functionality (and a video out on the iMac) it is an application that will see little use.

I see lots of potential problems with offering higher resolution video. I'm guessing the reason probably has a lot to do with the native resolution on the video iPod's screen. I'm guessing in time, high res will be offered.

I was hoping that the new video iPod would have some capability of copying DVDs to the device -- it would be a handy way of carrying a DVD library around. Converting DVD to iPod res shouldn't be too difficult if there will be tools to convert home video to iPod.

kwc:

The application to convert form home video to the iPod is QuickTime Pro according to Apple's own Web site. AFAIK QuickTime Pro does not rip DVDs.

I'm not sure I see your higher res argument. Apple could always sell higher res video and downsample it for the iPod. The fact that they optimized the video for the iPod screen and not the iMac screen seems weird unless they have something else up their sleeve or the bandwidth costs truly are prohibitive. My current guess is that we will see a real iPod Video in the near future, i.e. something with a physically larger screen and different dimensions from the current iPod lineup.

M:

I think for the most part the release of video at this point is a measure against other portable media devices which already do video. It also gives people who have an iPod a reason to upgrade.

Starting with low-res allows Apple to price high-res at another (higher) price point. Also, I think given how unproven video sales online are, they may be hesistant to invest too much into it -- this seems more like a testing the waters kind of thing -- with only ABC/Disney and Pixar onboard, it suggests to me that other networks/studios may be reluctant to sign up until they see some numbers.

The absence of a DVD conversion tool suggests that they do not want DVD playback on the iPod Video or handle the messy issue of DRM for DVDs. After all, DVDs weren't supposed to be able to be copied.

While I'm sure that bandwidth played a role in the decision not to offer high res, I think part of it also has to do with the idea that people who watch videos on their computer are going to have higher resolution sources available to them -- and in most cases that's going to be the DVD they borrowed from the rental store. Borrowing a DVD is also a lot quicker than downloading the data from Apple. For iPod at the moment, high res is not that big a deal.

I think High Definition will be the next step for video.

Given Steve Jobs' known skepticism toward handheld video and media center-style computers, my guess is that this move is entirely about the market. There are lots of problems with this stuff -- resolution, storage problems if you have to rip DVDs to your computer, license issues about buying stuff online and burning DVDs, the ergonomics of watching TV on your computer -- but he's basically hedging his bet that they'll eventually be able to figure some of this out. This move comes now because the market is still open for it, and Apple has the opportunity to do it on their terms before someone else tries it and screws it up. Apple can work out how they think TV/movie/music video purchasing and download should work, set up the licensing terms with all the studios/networks, and then force the rest of the industry to compete in a market in which they've set the terms.

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This page contains a single entry from kwc blog posted on October 12, 2005 2:16 PM.

The previous post was Apple gets video.

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