The entertainment business just doesn’t get it

Let’s face it. It’s easy to acquire video content these days regardless of whether you subscribe to a particular tier from your cable company or even whether you live in the country. Regardless of this the content companies still do not offer a legit path to offer content direct to consumer on a broad enough scale and so piracy continues. The same basic practices occur across media whether it’s movies, music or even books. For some reason the media business still feels the need to limit who gets to see, hear or read something rather than simply enable access to content given that it’s all bits and has been for a very long time.

It’s this type of mentality that has clearly driven Hulu’s content partners to demand that Hulu prevent Boxee from distributing shows across the Boxee platform.  This is an ignornat decision based on old media thinking end of story.  When you consider that Boxee offers Hulu as is – with commercials as they were originally sold, it’s clear this is simply based on believing that the content can be controlled through the old methods.

Boxee is a free software product available to download and install on your (Mac, Windows or Linux) PC or AppleTV and has yet to charge anything more than your time to install it.  Content passes directly to you on the platform and screen of your choice and though instead of using your web browser to surf across a bunch of web sites, you get a clean 10′ UI which keeps things really simple.  Boxee also adds a social layer which lets you share what you’ve viewed or heard and even make recommendations directly to your friends.

Given that network television content remains “free” and culturally we still tend to gather among friends online or at work and socialize about the shows we watch, it’s ludicrous for the media companies to want to stop something that actually enables shared enjoyment of the very content they are trying to promote.  Hulu and Boxee together are just another outlet / channel / option for people to consume the content they want.  An important detail which I’m sure will be lost on the TV creation and distribution world is that while Hulu is working to make it from niche to mass, Boxee is still early in the technology adopter territory which makes it ripe for influential discussion and most importantly spreading the word – whether good or bad.  Ironically, when tech savvy consumers get burned or blocked on one route there always seems to be another which was there all along … still free, without commerical interruption and easily viewable on any platform.

Disney Digital Copy

Disney Digital Copy - Wall-E

I just activated my first Disney Digital Copy for Wall-E
and I was very pleasantly surprised by the relative ease of the process. I could see my parents easily navigating this process without questions and that’s a definite win on the consumer tech front.

You just insert the DVD (Disc 3 for Wall-E) and run the app which pops up on start. Once you do that, iTunes pops up and ask you for the code to unlock the “download.” Once confirmed, the digital copy copies into your iTunes library and you are good to go. You can copy or stream this version to AppleTV and of course take it with you on a laptop or iPhone / iPod.

Convenience is good!

Not linking with Bravia Internet Link

As exciting as the possibility for Day and Date releases are within the current test by Sony is incredibly frustrating. We have a number of Bravia LCD sets in our house yet none currently have the $299 Bravia Internet link accessory and I have no reason to believe buying this will offer anything beyond this for the time being.

I already have a few ways to get internet content to my television (AppleTV and a Wii) and thus far watching YouTube has remained a rare, because I can experience. Of course downloading or streaming movies is great and currently I enjoy that via AppleTV though nothing in the available selection is currently playing in the theater.

The main cause of my frustration is Sony’s standard view that they need to control the end to end experience. There are plenty of ways to distribute high bandwidth content online and a few options on the DRM front as well. The NYT piece makes no mention of the PS3 as a receiver in the system, so for now I will assume it is not an enabled component. The PS3 represents the greatest distribution point for Sony and could cover a few bases for marketing the experience as well. Bravia’s Internet Link is yet another thing a consumer has to purchase and fiddle with and adds complexity to an already crowded space by the TV. I get that everyone wants to control the full deal here, but if you make it complicated and difficult or worse proprietary – the consumer will just continue to work around the system.

I look forward to the day when I can enjoy a high quality currently in-theater production from the comfort of my couch. Who wouldn’t want day and date feature (not DVD release) in their home theater? I am even willing to pay a premium for the pleasure over the theater ticket price to make up for the lack of concession sales. $300 is a bit more than I am willing to gamble on Hancock. If instead Sony offered videos through AppleTV, PS3 or even (gasp) the XBox, people would be more than happy to download and watch. Actually I would buy a PS3 if that was the conduit here … it would enable multiple experiences for the family and actually deliver some value.

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AppleTV Gets Day and Date with DVD Release

Gizmodo confirms Apple will be releasing movies from the major studios on the same day to AppleTV as DVD. I honestly prefer the quality of AppleTV over my Cablevision on-demand system and like the extra functionality of portability to my iPhone or iPod. Even with these details though I really hope this is just the first step.

As I’ve said a few times here, DVD release should not be the end game. It’s theatrical release and I’d be willing to pay a premium for the privilege. There’s limited value in getting just the movie on the same day I can get the full DVD. Helping my wife and I see a movie that’s being released to theaters — something that’s quite hard for families with young children — would be truly powerful and worthwhile.

For now I think I’ll keep on buying those DVDs I want and just ripping them for portable use.
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DVD Day and Date? No Thanks!

NewTeeVee has a bit on the alleged potential for Day and Date for VOD with DVD releases.

Raising the price of HD movies on VOD and releasing them the same day they come out on DVD would be a boon to the industry, according to a new survey from consulting firm Oliver Wyman. The company found that consumers would be willing to spend $7 to $9 for an HD movie on demand if released at the same time as the DVD.[NewTeeVee]

As I’ve noted previously, the way to do day in date is with the theatrical release NOT the DVD. I’m more than happy to pay more for the full DVD release, which will deliver a higher quality production and all the extras. Thanks to Amazon, you can pre-order and have it arrive on release day already.

A family with kids understands that controlling the video is key. We are currently watching There Will Be Blood in our home … started on Sunday and will finish (possibly even restart) when we can this week). VOD would expire and require a second purchase to complete. A second purchase would be more expensive than just buying the DVD to begin with…

If the movie was available at the same time as the theater, I’d actually be willing to pay more for the convenience, but these DVD release options just make no sense.

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All Nokia Media

I decided last week that I wanted to simplify my mobile media experience and ordered a 6GB microSD card so i could my N95-3 and N810 for evrything instead of also carrying my iPhone just for a few albums and podcasts. I’ve had an iPod since it was first released and have had my computer media experiece live inside iTunes. The full Apple ecosystem is strong and I’m a firm advocate of sync and go … Or at least I was.

For the most part the songs and albums stay the same on my ipod and it’s really podcasts that change with any real frequency – daily to weekly as things update. I thouht the 6GB card would be mainly in the tablet vs the phone as I started planning this but thus far (day 3) my plan has shifted a bit back to the phone. I’ve actually ordered a second 6GB card to use in the tablet so I don’t have to share and so each device can focus on some key pieces of the experience. A surprise arrived on Friday as well in the form of the Nokia N81 8GB which is designed to optimize the mobile music experience and I’ve been playing with that along with the N95.

Music and Video

Right now I have music on both phones and a limited amount of converted video on the tablet. The phones serve as really nice music players – quality seems solid on both. I have yet to do an A/B test as my recently updated iPhone (1.1.2) has not been reactivated… I’ve yet to swap its sim back from the N95 to complete the activation process!

The Nokia podcasting application does a great job importing my opml from iTunes and is able to update on a schedule or manually with a wifi connection or via cellular data. I’ve been manually switching things between wifi at home and cell on the go so I can get the latest stuff for my commute. Since I am unable to install anything on the work machine and do not have an itunes there’s no way to get an updated set of podcasts … Or even a quick download during the day on the iPhone. The Nokia phones however easily take care of business without the assistance of a computer which has really been quite awesome.

The N81 integrates podcasts directly into the music player which is something I’m hoping makes it back upstream to the N95 with a firmware update. In either case you can access podcasts as a genre and using the keypad you can live search through your collection of both music and podcasts. The Nokia Podcasting app also supports video which works nicely too though I’ve gone into the app to playback rather than use the music player which does not show video. When there’s an update to the Nokia Video Center application for the latest tablet OS2008, I will also subscribe there and predict my viewing preference will be the tablet’s larger screen.

Movies and TV shows are pretty easy to convert for the N810. Unfortunately video does have to be converted which takes time, but is relatively straight forward with the right tools. MediaConverter is probably the simplest to use and with the promise of making a file the tablet can play it’s hard to pass on it. Handbrake and (if you use Windows) Nokia’s new video conversion application also work well though if Hanbrake is your preference you might want to copy the settings from one of the other apps to make sure you get playable files.

Phone + Media Player

Like you would expect the Nokia phones pause and resume playback for phone calls much like the iPhone… So there’s no magic there, but it works relieably and well. The N81 has a dedicated music button next to the naviwheel and the N95’s multimedia key serves the same purpose. I discorvered today that a press and hold which brings up the music player on the N95, can also bring you right back to your previous application … A nice and I am sure not well known function.

The more I’ve used the phones as media players I can really see the potential benefit to an A2DP headset which would deliver stereo sound and also let me handle calls without switching things around my ear. My Shure E4C earphones are great but if I knew or needed the flexibility daily a wireless single unit would be killer.

What’s missing?

Amazingly the N81 is not supported by Nokia’s recently updated Multimedia Transfer application which would let me take advantage of playlist syncing as well as photos through iPhoto (though I use Aperture). While the N95 is supported, I’ve chosen to maintain a parallel experience and did a bulk copy (~4GB) using mass transfer mode on the N81 and a card reader for the N95. As it happens my mac mini media server crapped out at home so I had the external media drive on my desk and did a hunt and find to then drag over on both devices. This process took considerably longer than it would in iTunes to find what I first wanted and then actually to copy over. The Mac finder estimated over 2hours and after about 30 min I walked away. When I returned both were ready to roll. Sync is a really great thing to have and I hope that the Nokia Multimedia Transfer application (which has also been brutally slow for me) supports the N81 or that Nokia develops an actual plugin for itunes much like they did for iSync.

Copying video to the N810 was also done through a card reader and I will continue to do that as the video files I am using for my mobile needs are not really things I want clogging up iTunes.

Final thoughts

Outside of the initial bulk load, day to day use has been a pleasure. Music and podcasts are easy to access and update and video podcasts as well as converted video on the tablet all play well. Since I am already well converted as a two-piece mobile user, this plan works great for me though there’s no reason why the phone alone would not also do a lot of good. Of course you can’t playback any iTunes Store content as there is no Apple DRM access on anything other than their mobile devices, but that’s far from a deal breaker for me. Most of my content is from my own physical media collection and Amazon’s MP3 has an excellent DRM-free collection for “need it now” moments. I’ll probably dabble with the Nokia Music store when it eventually works in the US, but I’m less of a fan of Windows DRM.

Just as a sidenote, this entire post was written on the N810. That’s definitely not something I ever considered with the iPhone.

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