At one time I regarded The Wall Street Journal as the most prestigious newspaper in the world. Even when The New York Times seemed to lose its way, you could always depend on the venerable WSJ to deliver the news shorn of the usual politically correct spin. Now I’m not about to say that the news columns have changed, but now there’s a new wrinkle in the paper’s coverage.
The most significant Mac rumor to appear in recent months concerned Apple’s switch to Intel processors. But you didn’t hear it first from the traditional rumor outlets, such as AppleInsider and Think Secret. Maybe they were too busy dealing with the legal actions Apple has filed against them, or maybe it has nothing to do with it. That particular rumor, which turned out to be essentially correct, came from The Wall Street Journal. Sure it was picked up in other newspapers and online sources, but that’s largely the result of the credibility a WSJ story brings to the table.
Now it could very well be that Apple simply delivered the information on the condition that the WSJ reporters not identify their sources. It certainly created a huge amount of anticipation about the WWDC keynote in June where Steve Jobs made the official announcement. What’s more, the story had a far greater level of credibility because of its source, and it beat the rumor sites big time. So that’s it! Now we have official rumors from Apple, although I’m not about to suggest that this is truly the case, but I have my suspicions. After all, at one time things leaked like a sieve from the executive suite at our favorite fruit company, and perhaps a policy of selective leaks to the right sources is back in vogue over there.
Yes, the WSJ has done it again! The latest story, which requires an online subscription for you to read, has it that Apple is in talks with the music companies to offer music videos at the iTunes Music Store. If it all works as planned, these videos will be made available for download, perhaps at $1.98 each, but the price will be lower if you also buy the album. A sprinkling of videos are available even now. If this happens on a major scale, can we truly called this the iTunes Music Store, or as one commentator suggested, the iTunes Media Store?
Of course the telltale clues are already present in today’s version of iTunes, which means Apple’s programmers have already done the heavy lifting. You can now play videos within the iTunes application window. With contracts in hand, a full slate of videos could be in the offing. There’s even speculation that Apple might be trying to get ahold a licenses to make movies and television shows available. The great video convergence may be close at hand.
Regardless of how it all plays out, just what are you supposed to play those videos on, other than your Mac? That, my friends, is the second part of the WSJ’s speculation, which is that a video iPod, or iPod video perhaps, is being prepped for a September launch date. This may be in time to catch the back-to-school crowd, although schools open here in the southwest as early as the first part of August. More important, it’ll be in time for the holiday shopping season, where Apple can reap the big rewards.
But didn’t Steve Jobs say that an iPod video is impractical, that nobody wants to watch videos on a tiny screen? Well, look at the screen of your cell phone, and it’s clear the mobile phone carriers are aching to sell you news and movie clips to keep you occupied when you’re not making a call. Or because they think you have nothing better to do with the spare cash they’ll charge you for the services.
On the other hand, maybe the iPod video will be a carrier and not a viewing device. Maybe it’ll be a storage device that you can plug into your TV to see a high definition version in all its glory. Perhaps the AirPort Express is also part of the plan, but I’m not about to speculate exactly what products are going to be part and parcel of this video revolution. We’ll probably know the facts soon enough, perhaps buttressed by a few more carefully calculated leaks in the WSJ.
It’s not that Apple hasn’t been dropping hints at its very public events. Do you recall what Steve told us during his Macworld San Francisco keynote, that this is the year of high definition? No, I’m sure he didn’t mean mean that more people will buy those expensive Sony HD camcorders, or that Apple is selling more copies of Final Cut Pro. Apple didn’t include the fancy H.264 codec in QuickTime 7 for nothing. You see H.264 is a compression system on steroids, which makes high definition videos not only smaller, but less bandwidth intensive. Just check out some of the HD movie trailers at Apple’s QuickTime site, and you’ll see what I mean.
Of course you need QuickTime 7 to get H.264. It currently ships standard in Tiger, and is available in Preview form for Windows users. After all, if Apple is going to get into the legal video downloads game, it has to depend on sales from both platforms. As it stands today, the lion’s share of music downloads and iPods sales actually come from Windows users.
Does this all mean that you’ll be able to soon download your favorite flick from Apple? Maybe not immediately, because a full-length feature film is still going to occupy lots of bandwidth. Also, unlike music, movie fans still prefer renting to buying, although it’s also true that Hollywood earns more money from DVD sales than ticket sales at your local multiplex.
Regardless of what happens, the next few months are going to be mighty interesting.
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