Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Apple Movie Rentals Review - Apple Drops The Ball

UPDATE: I should apologize. I wrote this post the night this all was announced. iTunes music store clearly wasn't working at 100%. Checking out the rental offerings this past weekend has been a much better experience. Many more movies are available to rent (even more than to purchase). The ITMS experience is fine - it's easy to find movies and browse the offerings. I'll try to wait a while and get a chance to play with things for a couple days next time I write a review. Still, I'm not the only person let down by Apple on Day (or Week) 1.

HOWEVER, my complaints about lack of HD for macs are still valid. Hopefully Front Row and ITMS upgrades are just a Mac conference away.

Also - a playlist feature that works like the Netflix queue would be awesome for the rentals. Just sayin...

The world's abuzz with talk and recaps from the "Stevenote" fronting this year's Macworld conference. After some poking around with the new software, I have to say I'm disappointed. And I'm not the only one - AAPL stock dropped 5.5% today, and more after hours.

My big problem - there was plenty of love for the Apple TV. There's HD movies, movie rentals, and great new software. The love for the Mac Mini? Nowhere. I updated my iTunes software this evening as soon as I got home, and eagerly tried to find a movie to download. Here's what I think:

  • The interface: Poor. The browsing is not intuitive, if I'm not looking for something in particular (I wasn't). The movie selection leaves a lot to be desired - it doesn't look like anything has improved for Apple in this respect.
  • The content: Poor. Steve Jobs claimed participation from most studios, which they seem to, but not for high-quality content. This will be a major problem until Apple finds a way to make the studios play nice.
  • The speed: Poor. Downloading a movie took about 30 minutes, not the 30 seconds the Steve-inator proclaimed.
  • The renting: Where? I looked around the movie section for a long time, and could only find Robocop as something to rent. Everything else was for purchase only.
  • The HD: Non-existent. I couldn't find ANY HD content to purchase on my Mac Mini. Neither could the good folks at Ars. There was some stuff I'd never heard of in HD (podcasts, etc.), but was only available for the Apple TV. Not for the mac/pc users, which I'm sure greatly outnumber the Apple TV. At the very least, it'd be a great marketing tool for the Apple TV, since once someone sees the video quality on their monitor, they'd get a Apple TV for their television. This seems like a very odd choice to me. It can't be a technical limitation, as my low-end Mac Mini can play HD content from Hulu. I can only imagine Apple's choice.
I've been pro-Apple for a long time. As you can see on my ZeccoShare profile at Zecco, I hold some AAPL stock, primarily since I believe in the strength of their products. This is the first time that they have not only failed to blow me away, but have actually let me down.

Other announcements from today that were generally bad: iPod Touch users have to pay $20 to get their software upgraded, while iPhone users get the updates for free; an Apple external hard drive (the wireless is cool) that costs much more than competing products.

I can only hope that the coming months will bring some fixes that will restore their greatness in my mind.

OH, and I'm not the only one who thinks so:

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