By JONATHAN SILVERSTEIN Sept. 12, 2006 —
Apple is going into the movie business, with the introduction of full-length, feature-film downloads from the company's iTunes digital download store.
That's not all.
The company also announced a long-rumored wireless set-top box temporarily named "iTv" that will allow users to transfer their video and music from their iPod or computer to their TVs beginning in 2007.
For now, the company will only sell films from Walt Disney, Touchstone, Pixar and Miramax, all owned by Disney — the parent company of ABC News.
Starting today, a new version of iTunes — iTunes 7 — will offer users the ability to download any of the 75 films available, including the animated film "Cars" and the Johnny Depp-led "Pirates of the Caribbean."
More movies will be added on a weekly basis.
Most films will cost $9.99, while new releases will start at $12.99, but will come down in price further down the road, the company said.
That price scheme is in line with the charges from other similar services, such as Amazon's new movie download service Unbox, which offers films ranging in price from $8 to $20.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs said that movies would be available on the site the same day they're released on DVD and that it would take about 30 minutes to download a film using a high-speed broadband Internet connection.
To bring those films to life in high resolution, both movies and TV shows sold on iTunes will get a resolution upgrade, from 320 X 240 to 640 X 480. Apple says this will make a marked difference in picture quality.
In addition, Apple announced numerous changes to the various iPod devices, including Nanos in color and featuring a longer battery life, and a new, smaller version of the iPod Shuffle. Reaching for the Stars
The news came as little surprise to the media and industry analysts after Apple's invitation to today's event grabbed their attention with the word "Showtime" in big, Hollywood-style lettering.
It had also been assumed that Apple would make the jump to include movies in its products and download offerings after the success of TV show downloads on iTunes.
"Apple has sold 60 million iPods to date with 1.5 billion songs and 45 million videos. Today, Apple is fifth in music sales behind Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Target and Amazon. That's a huge number," said Michael Gartenberg, the or a vice president and research director for JupiterResearch via e-mail. "Once again they have revised their line with devices and services that will be hard for other players to match."
And try they are.
Microsoft is hoping to steal some of Apple's thunder with its entry into the digital-download market: a device and an iTunes-like download store under the brand Zune.
When Amazon recently began offering movie downloads from its online store, seven studios signed on to offer downloads. Six more than Apple will offer.
"Don't look at the initial selection as meaning all that much. When the music store opened, it barely had 200,000 songs. When they added TV shows last year, it started with just a handful of ABC shows. This will change fast," Gartenberg said. "We believe that Apple will have greater success than other players have had here."