And that is why you fail.

Everyone’s linking to David Pogue’s Apple TV review today. Pogue also has some spillover content on his blog, including a clue as to why Apple only allows you to buy video content, not rent.

Here’s how the Xbox handles it:

First, each movie is available for rental only during a several-week window–then it’s gone. Second, you have to start watching the movie within two weeks of downloading it. Third, once you start watching it, you have to finish watching within 24 hours.

In each case, the movie is lost forever if you’re tardy.

Well, isn’t that craptacular?!

The Macalope suspect that — like DRM — Apple could probably find a better way of handling rentals than Microsoft which loves to roll over to the recording industry. But barring that, that’s really one of the differentiators between the two companies, isn’t it? Microsoft’s willing to give you a half-assed solution for something were Apple says, no, you don’t want to do that because it’s going to suck.

Can’t you just hear Steve Jobs saying that?

And you’d just nod vigorously in agreement, too, wouldn’t you.

Finally, here’s Michael Gartenberg’s on the Apple TV after a glowing review:

Is there a downside? Not really.

There you have it.

  • Bergamot:

    “First, each movie is available for rental only during a several-week window–then it’s gone.”


    “Second, you have to start watching the movie within two weeks of downloading it. Third, once you start watching it, you have to finish watching within 24 hours.”

    Well that doesn’t sound *too* bad; it is a rental after all, and rental movies are pretty much the only area where DRM actually makes sense. When I rent a movie from Blockbuster, I have to watch it within a few days (1 day for new releases), after which it’s “lost forever” into the little video return slot.

  • Over at Highbrid Nation we have been talking the Apple TV and how unimpressed we are with it. I just don’t believe that most people will be able to get much out of it. Too many issues to deal with. I’ll likely be a while before I make such an investment.

  • I don’t think rentals *have* to suck. Here’s a reasonable scheme:

    I rent a movie for, say, $3-5 and it’s downloaded. I watch it whenever i feel like it over any 3-day period. When I’m done watching, I can choose to purchase it for an additional $5-7 at which point the limitations on the already downloaded file disappear.

    Wouldn’t it make sense to watch a movie before deciding if you liked it enough to own it for future viewing? And wouldn’t it make sense to make that decision right after watching it, and to credit me for the amount I already paid for the rental?

    It’s kind of like how I handle iTunes TV shows (I don’t have any TV reception). If the show sounds interesting, I’ll buy the pilot and maybe another episode. If I don’t like it, oh well, $2-4 down the drain. If I do, I can just keep purchasing, but I already owe an episode or two I like – I don’t have to buy them again.

  • Funny how Netflix lets you rent movies, yet doesn’t make you watch them in a specific time frame. The only requirement is to get another one, you gotta return one.

    So maybe movie rentals can in fact be done simply and cheaply.

  • John:

    Netflix is still a monthly subscription. I had the two-out plan for a year and I found that after about 4 months, I was paying more than if I had rented the movies at the video store. Reason? I didn’t get to watch 5+ Netflix movies per month. Between Netflix, the theater, and watching movies at friends’ places, it was movie overload. How many Netflix users do you know who get overwhelmed after a few months of use? I sold 3 people on Netflix and all 3 have cancelled their subscriptions after a while just like I have.

  • What I find disturbing and hardly ever mention is the fact that the only iTunes store where you can purchase movies and TV shows is the USA store. While most people can otherwise get movies and TV shows into their iTunes (nod to Handbrake and the torrent download system) there will be those who do not have the skills. It also seems to me that these people with less technical skills are going to be the ones more inclined to use a product like Apple TV, catch 22 anyone?

  • Bergamot:

    “Funny how Netflix lets you rent movies, yet doesn’t make you watch them in a specific time frame. The only requirement is to get another one, you gotta return one.”

    Well sure, but the Microsoft video rental service is clearly based off the the traditional video rental store model, not the Netflix model.

    I think this was done intentionally; the “keep it as long as you want, but you can only have one at a time” is close enough conceptually to “ownership” that the restrictions seem unreasonably chafing. This may be why most people I know of who use Netflix use it simply as a source of DVDs to rip to their hard drives.

  • > “Funny how Netflix lets you rent movies, yet doesn’t make you watch them in a specific time frame. The only requirement is to get another one, you gotta return one.”

    Hmm. I guess Apple could make you delete the last movie you downloaded. Then again, maybe they’re worried about people cracking the DRM and burning copies, having only paid a little bit of money for rental.

  • Gregory Harbin:

    Macalope, I hear what you’re saying, but the big difference between Microsoft’s solution and Apple’s solution is this:


    If you buy a movie from iTunes, it’s fuzzy and almost unwatchable unless you’re across the room. If you rent a movie from the XBL Marketplace, it’s in full 720p glory.

    I’ll grant you that the time limit is annoying, but I’ve deleted all the movies I downloaded (after only watching once) from iTunes. If I really want to own a movie, I’ll buy the plastic disc that doesn’t take up space on my hard drive (only on my shelf).

    Until Apple offers 720p (or better yet 1080p) movie and TV downloads, I’m not ever going to buy a video from iTunes. The only current downside to Microsoft’s solution is the limited media available, which is less their fault than Apple’s. I doubt ABC is ever going to put Lost on Microsoft’s box, but if they did, and at 720p, I’d buy it in a heartbeat. 480crap that I get from iTunes isn’t worth it when a torrent download is a couple clicks away.

  • John C. Randolph:


    You do realize I hope, that for everyone who proclaims that they’ll never buy a song/video/movie from the iTMS until Apple abandons DRM/adopts Ogg Vorbis/sells uncompressed files/steps up to HD/includes a free sexbot with every iPod, there are thousands of people will go ahead and buy from the iTMS without your approval?

    The iTMS is a *mass market* service. It’s not for snobs, because frankly, there aren’t enough snobs to matter.


  • Mr. Blister:

    Ah, but there is a downside. Compare the price to other movie services. Ten movies per month via Netflicks: $18. Via Apple TV: $99.99.

    Most movies do not rate a second viewing.

    I would be oh so happy if Apple adopted a Netflix-style rental model where the customer keeps three rentals at a time indefinitely, with an option to buy.

    Oh, and 720p w/ surround, please.

  • Blain:

    Most movies do not rate a second viewing.
    Then I take it you don’t have young kids. Neither do I, but from the viewing habits of children of friends, well, I never knew you could physically wear out a DVD! Their favorite movies they won’t want to see just twice, they want to see it twice daily. Even if, for us, it doesn’t rate a first viewing.

    In fact, that would make the Apple TV even preferable to a cheaper DVD. Hand the kid the remote, and let him pick and choose. No fear of scratching the disk, nor sticky fingers gumming things up, or even futzing up the settings. (At least there’s no longer the sandwich in the VCR. Would it now be a waffle in the drive?)

    There’s a balance tween rentals and ownership. Apple’s going for the same ‘you keep it’ strategy that worked so well for the music side, vs Napster et al. You could also say one new movie per month via netflicks is twice Apple’s cost.

  • Mr. Blister:

    Then I take it you don’t have young kids

    I do, in fact, have small children who behave exactly as you describe. These movies fall into the “purchase” category, along with some classics that my wife or I will watch more than once. I will gladly buy these through the ITMS.

    And, I agree completely re wear & tear. In fact, my beef is not with iTV. It’s with ITMS pricing for movies I will never watch twice.

    Because I am a sucker for Apple technology, I’ll buy an iTV. But I’m keeping Netflix. For now.

  • What people kinda forget is that the brick and mortar rental model is you get a movie and if you don’t watch it X number of days, you have to return it or get charged extra anyway. Someone has to Reinvent movie rentals for the digital age, not that the analog age rental scheme was that good to begin with.

  • Gregory Harbin:


    I do in fact understand that there’s a difference between me and mass market. However, I am also an average, 18-30 year old male consumer with disposible income. In my view, the iTunes store model is broken, because it delivers poor quality video. Apple’s going to have a hard time pushing the aTV as a viable living room alternative when an Xbox 360 is only $100 more, and offers HD content (as well as many other things).

    I am neither an Apple nor a Microsoft fanboy, although I own two Macs and a 360. I’m simply speaking as someone who would love to use a service for digital media delivery, and I can’t find a reason to use Apple’s. Macalope’s assertion that Microsoft’s rental system is a downside versus Apple’s buying misses a big part of the equation, which is HD, which is why Microsoft is currently winning the ‘living room’ space, and why I do not think that aTV will change it.

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