Apple's invitations to their 12 September 2006 press event (the un-keynote) feature a large Apple logo bathed in Hollywood-style search lights with copy reading "It's Showtime" across the bottom. A thinly veiled reference to the movie download service that the company appears to ready to announce in six days.
"They've done really well in music, they've done well in music videos and they've done well in TV shows, so logically movies are the next area of focus," said Shaw Wu, an analyst at American Technology Research who has a "buy" rating on the stock. "It's a first kind of bigger step in the direction of movie content."
In mid-July, Think Secret reported that Apple had worked out deals with Walt Disney, Universal Studios, Paramount Pictures, and Warner Bros., and was pursuing other studios as well for its iTunes movie rental service.
Speculation first began when Lions Gate CEO Jon Feltheimer spilled the beans in a conference call with analysts when he stated that the independent studio has reached digital delivery deals with CinemaNow, Movielink and iTunes. Lions Gate president Steve Beeks followed that up by stating that iTunes movie downloads should be launched before the end of the year.
"In terms of iTunes movie downloads, I think most likely some time before the end of the [calendar] year," Beeks said. "We know when they are planning on launching, but since they have not announced it publicly, I do not think it is our place to say anything more about that."
Businessweek sources claim that Apple's iTunes movie downloads will cost US$14.99 for new releases and US$9.99 for older movies.
If Apple's indeed prepping a movie download or streaming service, some questions need to be answered:
Bandwidth. How large will the movie downloads be? The average consumer has little patience for long downloads and this will be an issue for anyone that wants to spontaneously watch a movie. A streaming movie service could be an option but Apple could also offer downloads via peer-to-peer technology like BitTorrent.
DRM. Apple uses FairPlay DRM for their music purchases but it remains to be seen how they'll handle video. Will we be able to burn DVDs? Will the movies expire after a certain number of viewings or days? ThinkSecret is reporting that Apple will only be offering movie rentals.
Format. Will Apple's movie downloads be available in 4:3 (standard definition) or 16:9 (high definition) aspect ratio?
Transportation. If you don't have a mac mini connected to your home entertainment system or a MacBook, how are you going to get the movies to your television screen? I hope that Apple announces the Airport Express Video which will have an HDMI out port so that you can stream a movie from your Mac to any TV in the house.
That said, I think that Apple's Showtime announcement will consist of a Mac mini speed-bump, Airport Express Video, iTunes movie downloads... and one more thing: a proper video iPod to play them on.
Apple's Showtime event will take place at 10:00am Pacific time at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in downtown San Francisco.