Friday, April 18, 2008
There's little doubt that video on demand will be as much a part of the TV technology of choice of the future as HDTV. In fact, online video downloads are expected to grow from a total market of thirty five million dollars in 2006 all the way up to six hundred and fifty one million dollars in 2010. That huge growth is prompting a lot of companies to get on board with the technology in an attempt to get a share of that market. The super retailer, Wal-Mart, is the latest to try to get a slice of the pie.
Wal-Mart's service is pretty straight forward. Following the classic Wal-Mart business model it undercuts the prices of many of its competitors even if it's only by a few cents per download. Like any other service, Wal-Mart has advantages and disadvantages. For example, it has an advantage over Apple's iTunes online store because it offers a much greater selection of titles for download than iTunes does. That's largely because Apple has make movie studios reluctant to agree to market their movies through iTunes because of Apple's insistence that all of the movies be sold at the same price. Wal-Mart on the other hand, has demonstrated much more flexibility with its willingness to sell movies for prices ranging from $14.88 to $19.88. That alone has brought Wal-Mart more movie titles to work with.
ClickStar has similar advantages over Apple's iTunes, but it seems pretty evenly matched with Wal-Mart. The main advantage that ClickStar has over Wal-Mart is the fact that it was founded by actor, Morgan Freeman. Given the choice, a lot consumers would probably rather buy their online movies form a Hollywood icon than from a big box store based out of Arkansas.
Apple does have one advantage over both ClickStar and Wal-Mart and that advantage comes from the Apple TV. The Apple TV is a set top box that allows movies, TV shows, and music that has been downloaded from iTunes to be transmitted wirelessly from the home computer to the home entertainment system. This is a great way of integrating the home computer with the home entertainment system without a ton of cables getting in the way of everything. The disadvantage of the Apple TV is that it will only deal with downloads from iTunes (which limits its usefulness right there) and that it will only transmit HDTV in resolutions of up to 720p. Impressive enough for a wireless device, but not ultimately up to consumers' standards.
Amazon's Unbox video download service has Apple's, Wal-Mart's, and ClickStar's systems beat by being able to transfer video files from the home computer directly onto the hard drive of a TiVo digital video recorder. This is a good system because it doesn't require any extra equipment other than maybe a cable to connect the devices. That's always a bonus to take two pieces of equipment that are functional in their own rights - like a home computer and a TiVo DVR- and combine them together to do something that makes them even more useful. That's a lot better than purchasing a set top box like the Apple TV that only does one thing.
While all of these different services and systems are hashing out the details of how deliver video on demand, at some point we can expect a standardized way of doing things in much the same way that all video rentals came on VHS cassettes for many years, and DVD's were a standard format.