Apple is increasingly trying to position itself uniquely as not just a hardware manufacturer, but as a revolutionary service provider for new media as well. The iTunes Store just passed its ten-billionth download
, and Apple has arguably changed the landscape for mobile broadband, with half of all smartphone data worldwide passing through an iPhone
. Recently, observers have seen portents of Apple's plan to move iTunes into a cloud storage in the mold of Lala.com, with a huge new data center
in the southeast US. Now, according to a new report, Apple is planning to allow users to store their movie purchases in the iTunes cloud as well, potentially changing the way mobile video is handled.
Currently, when you buy a movie on iTunes, the entire video is downloaded to your desktop or mobile device. In the FairPlay-protected M4V format used on the iTunes Store, full-length movies even in standard definition are multi-gigabyte files which require a long time to download and quickly fill the limited flash memory on iPods, iPhones or iPads. Changing to a streaming model accomplishes two things that could make this scheme very attractive for users: saving time and space, and making each user's video library available anywhere they can access the Web.
According to CNET, Apple is negotiating with the film studios for rights
to distribute movies. Hollywood, according to the report, is afraid that Apple will only allow users to watch iTunes movies only on Apple devices, and is trying to use their leverage to force Apple to open up, according to James McQuivey, a media analyst at Forrester Research. "They are in a position to force Apple to go along and make sure that content bought [via] iTunes will play on a Nokia phone," McQuivey says. "That is very un-Apple-like."
Apple may be counting on the possibility that the iPad will be as popular as it hopes to persuade the studios to go Apple's way. They may not be able to, at least in the beginning. But if the cloud-based distribution system catches on, Apple will not only be set as a major player in the entertainment industry, but will have led an evolutionary shift in the way people deal with their media content. CNET's source explains the significance in a simple sentence.
"Basically, they want to eliminate the hard drive."