Apple Slays the Myth of Mobile Video

Apple iPods Battle the DragonsThe iPod turned Apple Computer into a god of the pagan electronics industry.

The company won this position after a long, bloody battle in which it sent millions of players down from heaven to slay the lesser devices that already inhabited the earth. Once installed in every homestead from horizon to horizon, the mighty Apple replaced traditional supply-houses of the land with its iTunes Music Store. Soon everyone shopped there and the profits went to heaven.

Over time there arose murmurs of the god’s next great warrior to be unleashed from above: a video iPod. The whispers lay over the land like a shadow and every Apple press release was a rumble of thunder on the horizon warning of the coming invasion.

Like impoverished villagers desperate to shore up their pitiful little landscapes against an oncoming flood, electronics companies everywhere prepared for war. They started cranking out handheld video players of all shapes and sizes. Apple just watched from on high.

Some of the earth-born warriors, in faithful tribute to the god of mobile music, were designed to resemble iPods. Unto them the heavens unleashed its wrath in the form of powerful storms of litigation.

Now the sound of thunder again grows on the horizon and storm clouds build. The land is silent in wait for a special Apple event on September 12.

Fortunately you have your correspondent, a soothsayer of some repute, to forewarn you of what’s to come. And, I say, there will be no battle. Rather, the next beings to come from heaven will simply stroll into our homes and cuddle up with us on the couch…

Okay, so it’s not really that dramatic, but the upcoming announcement – to be delivered by none-other than Apple’s Chief Executive Sage, Steve Jobs – will certainly be cinematic in its scope.

On the 12th, Apple will announce a new movie component of its iTunes Music Store. As with music, you’ll be able to purchase movies. Unlike music, you won’t permanently store them on your computer, however.

Because of their immense file size, the movies will remain on Apple’s server. When you want to watch your purchases they will stream over the internet.

Of course, as with music from the iTunes store, there are conditions that govern how you can use your purchases. For example, you’ll be able to burn a DVD copy of a movie, but you won’t be able to share the movie with other people.

You’ll be able to watch the movie on your Mac or PC, of course, or download it to your vide-enabled iPod. But all that is nothing new, there are tons of players on the market that can do these things.

Apple’s true coup to occur next week will be in the form of a new hardware device that will allow you to deliver video content from their servers direct to your television set. It will be a small box, without any display, that you plug into an electrical outlet. There will be a video output that you’ll connect up with your television or video receiver. There will be an optical audio output to hook into your surround sound system (or just your TV speakers, if that’s what you’ve got).

It will include a small remote control and you’ll interact with the device on your television screen. You’ll be able to access movies you’ve already purchased and buy new movies from the iTunes Movie Store. The device will communicate with the internet wirelessly or, if you’re still working with stone tools in the kitchen, via ethernet.

In effect, Apple is set to unleash upon the world the equivalent of an internet-based television service that offers true programming-on-demand.

This new device from Apple promises a far greater industry revolution that the iPod could ever have hoped to incite.

Digital cable and satellite companies should be very afraid. DVD manufacturers and resellers should be very afraid. Heck, the HD-DVD and Bluray guys should be freaking out; Apple is about to steal their entire market from under their noses.

Apple already offers thousands of commercial-free television programs for purchase on the iTunes Music Store. Next week you’ll find the full catalogue of a major film studio, probably Disney, available for purchase online, too. The other studios will appear soon thereafter.

From your couch, you’ll be able to purchase and watch any episode of your favourite show any time of day or night. New episodes will appear on the iTunes Movie Store for purchase as they are broadcast on network television. You won’t have to hit Wal-Mart to buy DVDs anymore. Just settle in at home and buy the upcoming release of Pixar’s Cars direct from Apple.

This all sounds pretty cool, but here’s the kicker: you can take it all with you.

The new Apple device will be small enough to be portable. It’ll be like carrying around your entire DVD catalogue in your pocket.

So you can take the device next door, hook it up to your neighbour’s television and share your movies. If you’re a business traveller you’ll be able to carry this device wherever you go and access your own movies and television shows on the television in the hotel room.

The unfortunate caveat for Canucks like yours truly? This will all be US-only for a time.

The army of handheld video warriors that other manufacturers have amassed to battle the iPod god will be circumvented next week and they won’t even notice. One day they’ll just grow weary of waiting in the trenches and head home to find their living rooms have already been infiltrated.

Then next year, once the battlefield is empty and the on-demand movie marketplace is ruled from the heavens by Apple, there will come the prophesied video iPod. It will stroll along the streets and meet no resistance, to be embraced by the people there.

You heard it here first.

First published in the Yukon News on Friday, September 8, 2006.

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