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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Will iTunes movies be a success?

The iTunes Music Store launched with all of the major record labels - a big coup, and put the store firmly on the road to where it is today - the fifth largest source of legal music in the U.S., and closing in on #4, Amazon, fast. By contrast, iTunes movies has launched with only movies from Disney's Pixar, Miramax, and Touchstone, and of course Disney itself - that is, just one of the major U.S. movie studios.

However another Apple service had an equally small start - TV shows. When Apple started offering TV shows last year, only ABC signed up. Now all the major broadcasters are offering their content through iTunes - some 200+ titles. It shows that growth can be achieved from a small start.

Apple is clearly launching the movie service with only a limited range in the hope that it will be a success, and other studios will feel compelled to sign up or lose out on a revenue stream. The 640x480 resolution is perfectly acceptable to watch, but in no way threatens HD disc sales, so the studios have nothing to worry about there. CD sales have also remained strong in the face of downloadable music, and they don't have the added feature of all the extras DVDs carry, so I expect DVD sales to do likewise.

Even with the small - 75 titles - launch range, I think there will be significant traffic. The range might be small but it covers a wide range of genres - appealing to many tastes - and contains many quality titles. During Job's presentation, I saw films such as The Incredibles, Sixth Sense, The English Patient, Enemy of the State, and Gone in 60 Seconds, for example.

Finally, having seen iTunes 7 and the iTV in action, I can't stress enough what a seamless and rich experience operating them is. The products work together beautifully; I really can't see how Media Center can compete. Consumers clearly like browsing and downloading music and TV shows with just a few mouse clicks, and have them play effortlessly either on their PCs or their iPods. Now they can do the same with movies - and I am sure that they will.

Just a pity none of this is available outside the U.S. It's going to be a long wait until "sometime" in 2007, when video will be available internationally.

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