the race to movie downloads is over

While on our return leg of the Labor Day weekend trip, my friend David held his video iPod so we could watch a coupla standup comedians do their routines while we waited in stop & go traffic. (I can’t watch videos on my old 3rd-gen iPod; only music and podcasts)

Many have speculated about who’d figure out how to capitalize on growing speeds and adoption rate of broadband internet to make movie downloads convenient and easy for the everyday consumer. Seekingalpha noted:

Limited success to date by two leading movie download sites. We note that two leading movie download sites, Movielink.com and Cinemanow.com, have achieved limited success to date vis-a-vis driving consumer traffic to its websites.

Amazon.com just launched their unbox.com movie download store, which has too many limitations. Some thought Tivo would figure it out, and get movie downloads onto their DVRs. I’ve used DVD-by-mail services like NetFlix, Blockbuster, and Wal-Mart, and some thought it’d be natural for one of them to figure out how to use the broadband pipe instead of Snail Mail to deliver movies. But, no.

Now, after watching the latest Steve Jobs’ keynote announcing the latest iPod and iTunes updates, the answer’s obvious to me. The race is not just heating up, it’s coming around the final stretch and for all intents and purposes over.

Apple iPod has connected with 75.6% of the market for music downloads, and has become far more ubiquitous among consumers who’d want to be with it. As Jobs said, Apple is in the den, the living room (by Q1 2007 with their “iTV”), in the car, and in the pocket. I lost count of how many times Jobs said “cool” and “exciting” as a part of his reality distortion field. It doesn’t matter if iTunes 7 turning out to have major glitches or Apple’s new series of releases is full of limitations or Scoble is disappointed about no widescreen iPod yet. iPod is _the_ cool device and the masses (I predict) will respond to iTV and iTunes movie downloads. iTunes has already streamlined music distribution, escalating TV show distribution, and now movies are on deck. That’s the only reason I can think of for Jobs’ breaking tradition and pre-announcing a product like iTV to stave off consumer interest in the competitor’s comparable offerings. And, iPod (with comparably longer battery life) will even supplant portable DVD players. I bet my next airplane trip (late October) will have more video iPods than DVD players and laptops combined.

This is all about getting paid content to the consumer, and I think this is it. Yes, this is all content in the entertainment sector, and educational content hasn’t made the most of this (yet?). Opportunities abound, now that the pipeline and storefront is in place and open for business.

cf. Seekingalpha commentaries: Amazon’s New Movie Service No Threat to Apple, Apple’s iTV Makes Wal-Mart Nervous. TUAW commentary: 1st impression- buying a movie from the iTunes Store. AppleMatters.com commentary: How the iTV Can Replicate the iPod’s Success

[update] Business Week anticipates the same thing as me:

Obviously, Apple thinks it can do better than its predecessors. It has reason for confidence, judging from the company’s track record. Remember the MP3 players — say, the Rio — before the iPod? So do I, but just barely. The mechanics and the usage model were already established. What made the iPod a success was a heavy dose of what Apple does best: a little technical improvement, ease of use, and style.
:
Apple’s history has shown us that it can make seemingly complicated technical products easy to use and popular among consumers. If anyone can make bridge this great divide, Apple can.

[update 9/17] New York Times’ A Video Business Model Ready to Move Beyond Beta holds a tenuous wait-and-see attitude.

[update 9/22] According to The Wall Street Journal, Walt Disney says they’ve sold 125,000 movie downloads totaling $1 million in revenue. Not bad for just 1 week. [ht: digitallife]

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