July 27, 2006BT's Vision
BT's broadband movie download-to-own service finally launches on Monday, initially offering about 150 films through a deal with Universal Pictures.
This is not like the download to burn and own service from CinemaNow or a version of it from Movielink in the U.S., but a "three-product" offering of films to watch and own, which will be viewable via a PC, a portable device, and a DVD that will be mailed out. It seems similar to Universal's deal with Lovefilm in April.
BT has secured the rights to offer the films at the same window as the DVD sale window, around three months before channels like Sky Movies air them as PPV. Prices per movie will range from £7.99 to £16.99.
It's another important step towards true on-demand digital distribution. This time the catch is that customers will have to buy a set-top box from BT to access the service, and the service is going to have to be very good for people to buy another box.
July 24, 2006Apple compromises on iTunes movie service
With two weeks until Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference, Think Secret has revealed that Steve Jobs will use his keynote address to announce the debut of movie rentals through the iTunes Music Store. While the announcement will undoubtedly be billed as a further extension of iTunes' dominance in digital media downloads, it represents a coup for the movie industry, which will have succeeded in standing its ground against Apple's pressures to offer consumers the option of owning movie downloads.Microsoft moves from A(rgo) to Z(une)
Microsoft's General Manager Of Marketing, Chris Stephenson, revealed details last week of a "new music and entertainment project" called Zune, confirming the rampant rumours that have been flying around for the last month or so, (which I've covered on this site).
While not going into any great detail about how the product will compare to Apple's music proposition, Stephenson told Billboard that Zune would incorporate WiFi technology, and would aim to build music fan communities in much the way Microsoft's Xbox Live aims to build communities of gaming fans.
Interestingly, Stephenson described the new service as "one part MySpace, one part iTunes and one part Xbox Live", which is a fairly good description of where they should be aiming: the community of MySpace, the design and simplicity of iTunes and the community and rich content delivery of Xbox Live. This could be the most exciting thing to hit the music market for a long time, but Microsoft has to get every part of it right from day 1.
July 17, 2006Microsoft's Argo project hotting up
A few websites are carrying this picture of what is claimed to be Microsoft's new portable media player - or iPod killer as it's frequently being called. It'll be wireless, it will support MP3 format, it'll be branded as part of the Xbox family, and it just might provide the much-needed competition to Apple that the market needs.
July 13, 2006More on Microsoft's new media player
This makes sense. After announcing that Microsoft's new media player and music service will be developed under the leadership of Xbox co-founder J Allard, comes the news that what's being developed is actually a complete line of Xbox-branded digital-media products, including a device that plays media, a software media player and an online media service.
The project, or at least part of it, is referred to internally at Microsoft by the code name Argo — a reference to the huge warship used by the hero Jason in Greek mythology.
This is a smart move, in my opinion. Microsoft needs a powerful brand if is to have any chance of competing successfully with iPod/iTunes, and Xbox is a pretty hot brand among gamers. Assuming that Microsoft is able to cut content deals with the record companies (which shouldn't be a problem), and that they can develop a killer user interface (again, shouldn't be a problem although it has been for everyone but Apple) then they have a chance. It'll be interesting to see whether they match iTunes pricing structure or go for variable pricing.
July 7, 2006Microsoft music service by Christmas?
Reuters is reporting that Microsoft is gearing up for a launch of its new digital music player and music service by Christmas.
I said in a previous post that one area where Microsoft might look for advantage would be in more advanced discovery and sharing tools, and it sounds like this will be a feature of the new service, which will also allow consumers to download music onto devices wirelessly.
The project is being driven by Robbie Bach, president of Microsoft's entertainment and devices division in December, working with J. Allard, vice president of its Xbox team. The Xbox experience will prove crucial.At last: a real use for mobile!
Sky has launched a service allowing customers of its Sky+ digital video recorder to set their machines remotely using mobile phones. Sky+ Remote Record went live this morning arming the firm's 1.4 million DVR subscribers with the ability to instruct their set-top box via text message or a mobile application downloaded to 2.5G, 3G and GPRS handsets. Later this summer subscribers will be able to select Sky+ recordings via the web.
This is such a great idea. The problem will remain, of course, finding the time to watch the hundreds of hours of TV on your DVR...
Universal Pictures UK has teamed up with film/music download service Wippit for a download-to-own movie service. The service uses Universal's three-copy model, which consists of two digital files that can be downloaded to a PC or laptop and a portable device, in conjunction with a DVD which is mailed by post. Downloads will be priced from £9.99 per title, although a special introductory deal will offer consumers three titles for the price of £20 for a limited period.
This is an interesting development, not least because Wippit doesn't currently have a video service. It could work in Universal's favour if they can piggy-back a successful video launch for Wippit, but on the other hand, if the launch isn't successful the titles could sink without trace.
I'm still not convinced by the requirement to buy a physical DVD in order to get a download, but my sources at Universal say their research showed that this was an overwhelming consumer preference. Maybe it's understandable in the context of a transitional-phase service, but I'd have thought people would like the flexibility to choose which format, or combination of formats, they want to buy.
As I've said before, kudos to anyone prepared to try anything - it's been too long coming.
Net Neutrality has become been a big issue in the US, where the network operators want to charge Internet content providers for enhanced IP services, while Net neutrality proponents say regulations are needed to prevent abuse by the Net's gatekeepers.
Think of it as tiered access, where organisations would pay for priority access to the network. Companies such as Google, eBay, Apple and Microsoft want to keep the status quo, and are lobbying for it to be enshrined in law, while Verizon, AT&T, Comcast are arguing for the right to charge - one of them said weeks ago that "Google was getting a free ride" at their expense.Let's get this straight
I'm back on my PC after an enforced absence due to an operation. All seemed to go well, so the next time you see me I'll be sporting my new, straight nose. What happened to get there was ugly ...
Thanks to all of you who sent your good wishes.