September 11, 2006 2:59 PM PDT

Apple taking iTunes to the movies?

When Apple raises the curtain on Tuesday's "special event," it will likely signal its deepest push yet into the living rooms of both Mac and PC users, according to a vast cadre of Apple watchers.

If the analysts and enthusiasts are on target, the iTunes store and client software will soon offer the option of movie downloads, expanding its offerings from music, television shows and music videos to feature films. Also expected are new iPod Nanos--perhaps with wireless capabilities--to shore up the iPod juggernaut for the holiday season.

"At some point, they've got to start coming to the table with a real digital entertainment strategy."
--Stephen Baker, NPD Techworld analyst

As usual, an Apple representative declined to comment on the plans for Tuesday's event at San Francisco's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.

Most of Apple's public events and press conferences this year have focused on the Mac, as the company completes its transition to Intel's processors with a host of new notebooks and desktops. But iPod revenue contributes a very healthy chunk of Apple's overall revenue, and many analysts believe the company will need some new buzz around the iPod to keep its growth rate on track.

The new Nanos should come with more flash memory for increased storage capacity, and a few new color choices, thinks Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray. If Apple's really thinking about increasing its already-dominant share of the portable music player market, it will probably have a model or two with wireless capabilities, he said.

Microsoft is planning to embed wireless capabilities into its Zune music player, which will also be available this holiday season. Patent filings earlier this year showed that Apple was at least considering adding wireless chips to the iPod, which would allow users to wirelessly stream music or movies from their iPods to stereos or televisions, Munster said.

But the "showtime" part of the Apple press conference is expected to be an announcement that Apple has secured deals with movie studios to distribute films through the iTunes music store. A listing for a $9.99 movie on the iTunes store was spotted in March, and an executive from movie studio Lions Gate said in August that his company had cut a distribution deal with Apple's iTunes. Also, BusinessWeek reported in August that Lions Gate and Walt Disney--where Apple CEO Steve Jobs now occupies a spot on the board of directors--are first in line to sell movies on iTunes for $9.99 to $14.99.

PC companies have mostly flamed out trying to bring digital content into the living room via the PC. Lots of desktop PCs now come with Microsoft's Windows XP Media Center Edition operating system, but it's unclear how many people are actually using that software to connect their televisions to the Internet through their PCs, said Stephen Baker, an analyst with NPD Techworld.

Apple could have an advantage in its iTunes software, which is available on somewhere between 50 million to 70 million clients, and its relationships with content distributors, Baker said. But what the company hasn't done is come up with a product that connects the Mac or PC to a digital television. The Airport Express product can stream music to wireless receivers around the house, but hasn't been updated for video streaming as yet.

"At some point, they've got to start coming to the table with a real digital entertainment strategy. They've got to have something that ties the iPods and music and movie stores to the rest of your home entertainment," Baker said. That could be a new version of Airport Express that is designed for video streaming, or it could be more video-friendly Macs like the 24-inch iMac models unveiled last week, he said.

As always, with Apple events there's never a total consensus among the fan base on exactly what to expect. An updated video iPod with a slightly larger screen gets frequently mentioned as a nice combination with the iTunes movie store. Some enthusiast sites are pointing to the introduction of the long-rumored iPhone, but analysts don't think that product is quite ready for prime time. Another possibility would be new MacBook Pros based on Intel's new Core 2 Duo chip for notebooks, formerly code-named Merom.

See more CNET content tagged:
Stephen Baker, Apple Computer, NPD Group Inc., Apple iTunes, Apple AirPort Express

15 comments

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Make it international
It would be great if they started selling movies for download at the
iTMS.

Let's hope they don't make the same mistake they did with TV
shows and make them only available in America.

Remember: Internet - no geographical boundaries. :-)
Posted by (11 comments )
Reply Link Flag
echo that
Indeed. Does anyone know the reasons that iTMS TV shows are not available in Canada?
Posted by Sonicsands (43 comments )
Link Flag
It's a LEGAL matter, not a technical one
Although I certainly can understand why people outside the
United States are frustrated that they can't buy the same TV
shows on iTunes that Americans can, the issue is NOT that
Apple does not want to sell the content. The internet does not
magically remove legal impediments to selling content across
borders.

Apple does not have the right to sell content unless the parties
that own the content agree to sell it. Deals have to be
negotiated to make this happen. With respect to music, deals
had to be negotiated country-by-country and record company
by record company. It's a huge hassle that takes a lot of time.
Posted by Thrudheim (306 comments )
Link Flag
yes - make it international
I'd wish the TV shows and movies would be available
internationally... I only buy DVD's so I can listen to the original
audio channels. I don't like dubbed movies...
Posted by joebuff75 (35 comments )
Link Flag
No one like Steve
It's always nice to know the future, but when it comes to apple announcements, nobody does it better than Steve.

Let Steve annouce it and then we can talk about it. What you think?
Posted by kool_skatkat (982 comments )
Reply Link Flag
No one like Steve
It's always nice to know the future, but when it comes to apple announcements, nobody does it better than Steve.

Let Steve annouce it and then we can talk about it. What you think?
Posted by kool_skatkat (982 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Any options other than iTunes/iPod for Macs?
This is more of a suggestion question, but I'll post here anyhow.

Tonight, my friend called up and asked for a suggestion for a music jukebox for his Macbook. I was lost. Are there any?

He, like myself, don't hate the iTunes/iPod eco (in fact, we like it a lot), but we'd like a bit of options. He's more about the music and doesn't want an iPod; I'd actually like to get videos online and use my iPod still.

Any suggestions of a good service???

P.S. I did see a handful of music players Mac-compatible, but they didn't seem very up-to-date.
Posted by toosday (343 comments )
Reply Link Flag
check cnet
they have an article on mp3 players that work with the Mac besides the iPod including Sandisk's iPod Nano clone with the color screen..
Posted by Musica360.com (106 comments )
Link Flag
They would have to be quality options.
The iTunes/iPod combo didn't get where it is because IT
departments mandated it. It got where it is because it's the best
system out there. The user experience is better. It's easier and
more consistent from iTunes through iPod. It just works, and it
is around the same price as it's competition. In a free market,
the best product/service wins, and alternatives that can't
compete on anything more than price are doomed to extinction.

Even more importantly, asking for more options requires that
you buy into those options, but who's going to do that? Now that
MS is about to attack its 'Plays for Sure' partners, who wants to
put their money into a product that's sure to be not just out
dated, but completely obsolete in the very near future?
Posted by Macsaresafer (802 comments )
Link Flag
iTMS offline
The web links to the iTunes Music Show are offline and redirect to
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://phobos.apple.com/showtime/showtime.html" target="_newWindow">http://phobos.apple.com/showtime/showtime.html</a>

The message on the page says:
"It's Showtime
The iTunes Store is being updated"
Posted by joebuff75 (35 comments )
Reply Link Flag
oh yes.. the movies are coming....
oh yes.. the movies are coming....

I wonder what the people at Amazon are doing right now...
Posted by Musica360.com (106 comments )
Link Flag
ask the content owners
That has more to do with the owners of the content as opposed to Apple. It's the same with music, content holders may have deals with other companies in other nations that they don't want to trample on.

Hence, support outside the US is limited.
Posted by Musica360.com (106 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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