Personally, I think the very first question that should be asked whenever a movie or television studio releases its content for download, or whenever some new multimedia device or phone comes out, is what Digital Rights Management (DRM) technology (otherwise known as CRAP -- Cancellation, Restriction, And Punishment) it's intertwined with? If it's a device that's full of CRAP and you know what kind of CRAP it is, then that gives you an idea of what content will work on it and what other devices it may or may not interoperate with. If it's some kind of content that's full of CRAP and you know what kind of CRAP it is, then you might know what devices support it (provided you have an idea of what devices support which kind of CRAP in them... something you shouldn't have to know or care about).
But, 99 times out of 100, any time you read some story about some new device or content distribution deal, that little detail -- the one that's probably most important -- gets left out. That said, there is a hint in this morning's story from the Register about News Corp.'s (Rupert Murdoch's outfit) new download deal:
Rupert Murdoch's News Corp will start selling films and TV episodes via download from October...Films will be available from the day of the DVD release and TV shows will go online 24 hours after broadcast....You won't be allowed to burn DVDs of the content, but can transfer them to another Windows Media device.
In other words, it will be using Microsoft's DRM which means the content will not work on any video iPods (or any iPod-compatible devices coming out of Apple). But, what's worse though --- is the business about not being able to burn to DVD. This is the evil of CRAP at work with an emphasis on the R for "Restriction." Let's say you download a movie for $20 (News Corp.'s going rate). That's pure profit compared to the sale of physical media like DVD. You just helped News Corp. eliminate all the channel costs associated with manufacturing (the DVD itself, the packaging) and distribution of DVD movies like the $16 Because of Winn-Dixie and the thanks you get is that you can only view it on a computer or on a video capable Windows Media device like one of those from Creative Labs or iRiver.
Even worse, the long-term future of those Windows Media devices was severely called into question when Microsoft launched its Zune brand. That brand will put Microsoft directly into competition with the same companies that have been licensing Microsoft's "PlaysForSure" DRM (which apparently be different than "Zune" DRM). How they'll respond is anybody's guess but it's hard to imagine the two systems co-existing for very long (the market certainly doesn't need yet another DRM system) or Microsoft's partners being too happy about competing with the company that originally took a non-threatening position when it began to license its technology. At this point, given the cloud of uncertainty hanging over Windows Media DRM, I would strongly recommend not buying any content like a $20 movie from Fox until the dust settles (to be honest...I wouldn't recommend buying any DRM'd content, but I know how some people aren't as sensitive t the issue as they should be).