All this Apple drama is getting to be too much. How did Steve Jobs manage to create such insanity around that company? Every move is scrutinized, predicted, and rumored to death.
Last night Jann woke me up calling to tell me that there was a new device being launched that downloads movies in your home. I sleepily pointed out that Disney had tried this years ago. Turns out, that was what he was talking about: MovieBeam. Back when this was first released, industry pundits said that it would flop–and it did. It relied on downloading movies over the air using portions of TV station bandwidth. Evidently, they’ve now upgraded it so that it downloads over the internet instead. But it still has several problems in my opinion, including:
- Because it must download movies, it is not instant like Comcast’s On Demand feature, although they say “instantly” in their marketing. They send out a certain number of movies every week, which replace older ones on your box. If there aren’t any movies you want to see, you have to wait to find out what they transmit next week. It’s not an “On Demand” service. Unlike Netflix, you can’t choose what is sent to you. You pay for the box. You pay for the new account service. And you still have to pay each time you watch the movie. “Rented” movies are only good for 24 hours.
- They also say “Never leave home for movies again.” That’s a charming slogan, let’s all never leave home again!
- How many of us really want another box and its assorted cables to connect to our TVs which don’t have enough connections for it?
- The box has no other capabilities, it just plays the movies downloaded to it. In that respect, it’s like another DVD player, taking up space. They should have combined this with a DVR device so that it could at least earn it’s keep taking up a TV connection.
Now, the reason this comes up in the context of Apple. I can’t find any confirmation anywhere of this, but Jann said that MovieBeam was using FairPlay DRM — which would mark the first time that Apple has licensed its DRM technology. This is the same format they use on the iTunes Music Store.
Then this morning, he called and woke me up again with the news that Apple was buying Disney. I was very skeptical, and explained my reasoning. It turns out that Barron’s made the comment that Apple should buy Disney, not would; but that was enough to set off the Apple fanatics out there and they’re jumping to a conclusion — the same way they see a Photoshopped image on the web and jump to the conclusion that Apple is about to release an iPod with a touch screen, a flashlight, a toenail clipper, and a corkscrew.
Time will tell of course, and if Apple does buy Disney I’ll be shocked and bewildered. And worried that it means the end of the Macintosh. Who knew that Apple’s biggest enemy all along was Sony?
Meanwhile, two other interesting Apple developments for people to ruminate on: they’ve been buying up and leasing lots of office space around here for a while now — lots. And now it seems that they are buying up data centers, including a large one here in the Bay Area.
Data centers generally house computing, data-storage and networking equipment assisting in Web-based services and transactions. The most elaborate “Tier IV” centers such as the Newark facility have the highest levels of redundancy and security, and can cost upwards of $1,200 per square foot to erect and equip. Cupertino-based Apple, which declined to discuss its facilities, is thought to have paid in the vicinity of $450 per foot.
So, what’s that all about? Apple buys up a bunch of data centers? What are they going to be doing with them? An iTunes Movie Store?
I’m almost as bad as those other rumor mongers.
[Update: Turns out that the Disney MovieBeam service still uses over-the-air broadcasts to deliver movies. It has broadband internet interfaces and they claim these will be used “in the future”; but for now, all movies are sent over local TV station signals. So add this to the list of problems: you’ll need to get an antenna put on your house.]