March 3, 2008 4:00 AM PST

Coming soon: Movies on flash memory cards

Coming soon: Movies on flash memory cards
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GALWAY, Ireland--PortoMedia is probably the only start-up in the world inspired by the movie Carlito's Way.

Company founder Chris Armstrong explains: Four years ago, he set out to his local DVD store to rent a movie. First, he stopped at the ATM to get cash. The store didn't have Twelve Angry Men, the movie Armstrong wanted. He settled for Carlito's Way instead. He then waited in line, paid for his rental, and returned to his car.

Then he remembered another movie, Gone in Sixty Seconds, the title of which got him wondering why the process of renting movies, from start to finish, can take so long.

While other companies see the Internet as the answer to that question, Armstrong has another idea. PortoMedia is setting up kiosks that will let consumers download movies to a flash memory key or portable hard drive.

The kiosks will be packed with hard drives that can hold 350 to 5,000 titles. Users then plug in a memory device from the company, enter a PIN code, and buy or rent a movie. When consumers get home, they simply slide the memory device into a dock connected to a TV.

The key to the service is a proprietary USB interface that transfers data at a faster average rate than standard USB devices. A standard-definition movie can be loaded onto a memory device in 8 to 60 seconds, depending on the length and chip speed. High-definition movies, which won't be available initially on the service, can be downloaded in 18 to 45 seconds. The USB interface works just fine with the USB slots on PCs and notebooks.

Flash key
Credit: Michael Kanellos/CNET
PortoMedia's small flash key sits in the
company's discount dock. This hardware
will sell for around $50 in the U.S.

The company did a trial run in Dublin at the end of 2007, with plans to go live in four U.S. cities toward the beginning of the second quarter, though Armstrong declined to name the cities. Two retailers have signed on to put the company's MoviePoint kiosks in their stores.

More importantly, major studios have agreed to let the company rent standard-definition movies out of the kiosks, he said. Getting permission to build a library of high-quality content has been the bane of several would-be Blockbuster killers. Armstrong wouldn't divulge the name of the studios, but said they were major and well-known.

"We will have them (movies) the same day and date as DVD," he said. The pricing will be about the same.

Advantages over current models
If the company can pull it off--and that remains a big if--PortoMedia potentially can short-circuit some of the problems and shortcomings of the various methods for delivering movies. First up is cost. Delivering movies via hard drives and flash memory eliminates many of the packaging and shipping expenses associated with DVDs. Shelf space at retailers now dedicated to discs is also freed up for other products.

In addition, selection is improved. Most video outlets don't have 5,000 titles, he noted. Kiosks further let more companies into the video rental market. The kiosk version holding 350 titles will sell for around $2,000; it could be placed near the counter at convenience stores. Retailers will also be allowed to put their own brands on the box, so it could be hawked, for example, as "7-Eleven MoviePoint."

The time for viewing the rental won't kick in, he further added, until the movie is actually started, which lets the company copy the Netflix "no late fees" model but without monthly subscription fees.

Even more important, the system erodes the desirability of downloading movies. While great in theory, movie downloads have yet to become a big hit. Consumers have complained about long download times with some services, while others only let you watch a movie on a PC. PortoMedia rentals can be for one, or multiple viewings, depending on the fee and service selected. Because the company can control access to the box and makes the devices for downloading movies, viruses become less of a worry.

A physicist by training, Armstrong claims the Internet can't handle movie downloads anyway. He did the math on last year's release of Shrek 3. In the first three days, 11 million copies got sold. That's 66 petabytes of data.

Movies from PortoMedia can be watched on TVs or PCs. To prove his point, he transferred Spiderman from a portable hard drive to an iPod Touch. It took six seconds.

"And I didn't need permission from Apple to do that," he said.

But what about piracy? "It will never be perfect, but we are going to make it as hard as we can," he said. Movies rented from the service will comply with Microsoft DRM standards.

If anything, the company has lined up legitimate technology partners. IBM helped it developed the transaction system. The drives come from Seagate Technologies (which has said for about a year that we will see video rental kiosks with hard drives), while Samsung provides the flash memory. Toshiba is fabricating the chips that make up the high-speed interface. Investors include former film execs like Jay Emmett and Lindsay Gardner.

PortoMedia's interface emphasizes sustained, rather than peak downloads. USB 2.0 can provide peak bandwidth at 480 megabits per second. "But I've never seen anyone achieve that and I'm in the industry," Armstrong said. Average speeds are far lower.

The company claims it can hit a sustained bandwidth of 95 megabits per second or higher. Some venture capitalists advised him to turn the company into an interface chipmaker that would license technology to other semiconductor manufacturers, but Armstrong decided to stick with movies.

The hardware will be sold in bundles with movies. The starter pack, which will sell for around $60, comes with a flash key, a dock, and six movies. At the high end, users can spend around $160 and get a handheld with a 1.8-inch hybrid hard drive with 240GB of storage, a fancier dock, and 12 movies.

See more CNET content tagged:
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Another failed attempt
I'd be willing to bet that this will be yet another failed attempt at taking on the blockbusters of the world. Why would anyone want to purchase hardware that will lock them into using one particular vendor, then pay for media that will only work on that hardware, and only for a pre-determined amount of time?

Why not simply either purchase the DVD, or rent it the way it's traditionally been done? I'd be much more likely to download, rent or buy it than I would to buy into some other proprietary system.
Posted by RobertAPierce (223 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This would be cool if it burned to optical.
I like the idea of a system that lets you pick a movie, then burns it to DVD or blu and prints the disk and cover art for you. Flash movies might put a dent into rentals, but only if they support 1080p with lossless audio.
Posted by ralfthedog (1589 comments )
Link Flag
your being forgetfull, maybe a little bit dumb.
1.) with USB, no more accidental "scratches"
3.) it's so much freakin' cheaper, to buy a movie it's 25$, to buy a movie on this presumably, it'll be 15$ works with rentals to.
4.) if you can do this online, no more wasting 20$ in gas to get to the movie store.
Posted by Xillra (1 comment )
Link Flag
66 petabytes
Wow, yet another person with a calculator trying to figure out something simple.

66 petabytes over what period of time and what delivery method. Using multicast-type delivery the average provider would only use the bandwidth once for as many folks as are requesting the data. Add a bit-torrent structure to it, so it can round robin the data as requested, no big delivery issue.

Remember, each of those 11 million people will have a maximum delivery speed to their home of 1.5 to 10meg on average. Add onto that fact that not everyone would be requesting it at the same time, and you get to statistical multiplexing. Amazing how oversubscription works! Add in other possible delivery methods - see how Akamai works for an example - and the needed upstream bandwidth for a provider shrinks even further.

I love how figures don't lie, but liers can figure. And this marketing guy figured out how to wow folks with numbers. The real trick is time to download. If the average person can download at 8meg per second, they can download an average "high definition" DLC movie in about 20-30 minutes. I don't see the convenience of going to the 7-11 to buy a rental when you can have it in your house while making/eating dinner. Didn't they try this same delivery method with the DVD's that decay in atmosphere and DivX (not the cool MPEG4 thing, but the crazy movie rental thing) in the past?
Posted by blsith (48 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Hey said 3 days....
3 days, and he was talking the internet, for 66 petabytes of data for distrubiting shrek 3
Posted by basraw (310 comments )
Link Flag
2 points
First, I didn't get the impression the original poster's comment about the 66petabytes was meant to indicate that that much data would be at one shot and cripple the internet, but the internet must have a theoretical capacity, and if all movie viewing, renting and purchasing goes Internet based, that's just that much more data choking the bandwidth globaly.
Second, I see a niche market for this because what I don't see a lot of in these talks of everything going to a download format (i.e. streamed movies, movie purchases, streaming radio, etc.) is that not all IPS's provide unlimited bandwidth. My ISP has a Fair Usage Policy that says if I go over 50GB in a month I need to switch from residential rate of $39.95/mo to Commercial rate of $150.00\mo. So even with compression to degrade the download quality of the movies, how many can I rent a month and still have my regular traffic and Vonage before I max out and start paying 5X the monthly rate for service? I need Netflix or something like this because I can easily watch 1 movie a day, more on the weekends.
Posted by a473497 (11 comments )
Link Flag
Entry price prohibitive to consumer success
This all sounds good on paper. The sticking point is the entry price point being too high. We didnt have to pay $60 to start renting or consuming anything before. Consumers are looking for ways to cut costs. This aint it.
Posted by mycrapsgame (22 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Of course we had to pay out!
To start renting or consuming DVD's for example, we had to buy a DVD player first (Unless you have some magical DVD player tree). Those started out way above the asking price for this technology, so already they're ahead of the game. Seems like a nice idea and hopefully they'll keep going with it.
Posted by deloggmore-2205361233581227240 (4 comments )
Link Flag
Microsoft DRM---and also plays on an iPod??
The article says the movies "comply with Microsoft DRM standards" to combat piracy. It also describes transferring a movie to an iPod Touch--but that's not possible without stripping off Microsoft's DRM first (which will not play on an iPod).

Sounds convenient--but unfortunately, impossible (legally).
Posted by Dale Sundstrom (21 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I suggest you do some more research.
Posted by brass2themax (31 comments )
Link Flag
Everything is lovley
Yep i wanted to be immortal and go to the stars.
so i get this crude charge up of my life and DNA and then i feed from the earth Readying for Social experiences every StarBurst.

Earth is just assisting me
what was that old chinese saying
Of course everyone likes being free that bit more so they're all half encouraging me.
Posted by wildchild_plasma_gyro (296 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Surgeon general's report.
Sniffing hairspray can be harmful to your health.
Posted by ralfthedog (1589 comments )
Link Flag
But DVDs are something you can get multiple sources of content. I can get DVDs from a bunch of retailers, everything. Just like Blu-Ray now, i know that it will be the industry standard thus I know that it will be worth the investment. This might not be worth the investment because it might die out.
Posted by HaloZero (13 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Leave the House?!
Albeit a silly subject line, but the main draw to online access is, you
don't have to go anywhere.
Posted by Thomas, David (1947 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Yeah, but..
It would be faster to leave the house and come back than to download the movie with an average broadband connection. Not to mention that you get some exercise and *gasp* get some human interaction.

The pros outweigh the cons, methinks.
Posted by brass2themax (31 comments )
Link Flag
location, location, location
@David Thomas - I was thinking the same thing. This works, however, if they locate where people already go with relative frequency, i.e. grocery store, train station, large corporate campuses, etc. Could be cool - esp with new, high-end HDTVs including a USB port. I could get into this if I don't have to make a separate stop somewhere.
Posted by shalafarky (11 comments )
Link Flag
yet another format? i can already download acceptable quality movies to my TIVO, and hd quality to my xbox (and I assume playstation allows the same thing). if you don't have broadband, chances are you are still renting your movies from blockbuster. in that case this model will work for blockbuster -distribute a digital copy to the branch, have the teenagers burn as many copies as they need to rent that night, dispose of when they return. flash drives don't plug into most people's tvs.
'those who know sell to those who don't...'
Posted by megustansalchichas (153 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Coming soon, movies on flash memory
I have a few problems with this concept:

1) M$ (Malware Society's) DRM - do Ineed to say anything more!

2) Proprietary USB interface??? I don't think so.

3) Introduction of nasty stuff into mu computer.

4) To me, this is a fine example of 'vaporware': Now, you see, now you don't.

5) Price point is all wrong for me.

Just my worth(less) 2 cents worht.
Posted by meshugge (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I have 3 problems with your problems
1) Proprietary USB interface doesn't sound like what you think it is. It sounds like it's a standard connection, but has been rewired for faster tranfer rates.
2) This is not meant to go into your computer, it's meant to go into a dock that's connected to your TV
3) MS DRM could mean that if you do connect it to your computer no new software will be needed to watch the movie. Unless of course you have a Mac or Linux computer.
Posted by aka_tripleB (2211 comments )
Link Flag
Flawed thinking
1) M$ (Malware Society's) DRM - do Ineed to say anything more!

Like DRM is any different for any format, ITunes uses it, MS's Zune uses it, HD/SD DVD uses it, and the almighty Joke from the inventors of DRM, Sony, Blu-ray uses it.

2) Proprietary USB interface??? I don't think so.

USB isn't that proprietary, there are more proprietary interfaces out there than USB, everything has some proprietary components, but the thing with USB is its supported by just about everyone in computing and electronics now, USB Flash/Hard Disc is the next logical step for storage over single use optical disc technology.

3) Introduction of nasty stuff into mu computer.

Well if you buy your stuff from reputable dealers you don't have to worry about it, and if you do get something on your computer you have someone to go after, but then, as previously pointed out, this is being developed for TV play back not PC.

4) To me, this is a fine example of 'vaporware': Now, you see, now you don't.

USB has been around for a long time when it comes to computer technology, people said the same thing about CD and DVD but they are still both around today.

5) Price point is all wrong for me. Just my worth(less) 2 cents worht.

Price point, and $25 bucks for a DVD is fine? The deal with this is once the infrastructure is in place it will be cheaper than DVD to provide because you don't have to higher some 3rd party to print the movie for you, it goes strait from the Home Entertainment Division of the studio to the distributors, also the chances of having things like disc rot and scratching during manufacturing, which cost the company money, is completely eliminated.
Posted by goody1701d (8 comments )
Link Flag
better solution in short and long run
I have two problems with this service:

1. Short-Run: Only early adopters would sign up. Those early adopters are a. already streaming movies on the internet via set top boxes or b. ripping and burning media. No non-early adopter is going to sign up for this service.

2. Long-Run: In the long-run, rental movies will be streamed to the user via set-top boxes through 3rd parties or tv service providers (ex: comcast on demand).

In sum, early adopters have a better solution already and the masses will skip right over this service and direct to on demand rentals in a few years.
Posted by jared0001 (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
USB too slow
I've transfered video on my Dish Network HD DVR to an external HDD and movies like Full Metal Jacket are around 8.6 GB when in HD. That would take at least 15 minutes to transfer on USB 2. A better choice would be eSATA with it's 3 Gigabit/sec transfer rate.
Posted by DJRWolf (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What about box art
I'm a fan of the artwork on DVD boxes. I think it's part of the whole experience but I see why someone would want take the usb route,though.
Posted by JReefer (52 comments )
Reply Link Flag
When will people learn? The key is fast, wireless, and ubiquitous. Kiosks are dead. Physical format distinctions are dead. Anything that relies on either is dead. If this was 1998, this might have a chance. But we have the bandwidth, we have the upcoming larger wireless spectrum, we have consumer behavior embracing the cloud. This idea is D.O.A.
Posted by max_march (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This is a great and viable concept. They could even consider sending the chips via mail a'la netflix to deal with the "I don't want to leave home" crowd. From a business stance, this is better than blockbuster because you don't need all the retail space and (unlike the redbox kiosks/netflix) you won't ever run out of a movie or have to replace a damaged/lost disc. For consumers, this is better than downloading because most people suprisingly don't have broadband or (people like me) don't want to wait to download that hi-def movie. I've downloaded very short hidef trailers and those were agonizing to wait for- I couldn't imagine a whole movie coming down that way. If it wasn't for the initial cost of the hardware, this would be a great revolution in content delivery.
Posted by celticbrewer (867 comments )
Reply Link Flag
yes from a business point of view it does save space and packaging but why would your average consumer care about that, and as for damaging cd disks or losing them I expect the cost to replace the damaged hardware you would have to buy would be somewhat more expensive. also I think the only people that are really going to be interested in this type of format are the people that are already computer minded and are probably already freely downloading from the internet, so there may be an initial interest in this idea but i doubt it will have a long life. myself personallly I would rather rent a movie from sky box office if I dont want to leave the house or else dvd's are cheap enough to buy and if you look after your property will last quite a long time.
Posted by jojochops2025 (3 comments )
Link Flag
Internet movie viewing is the future. It's much easier than this "solution".I believe in the future new feature films will be available online as well.There won't be a movie you can think of that wont be available online.I don't believe we will actually be downloading the movies either.I think there will be membership sites that will have the movies stored on their hard drives that we will be able to access with a single click of the mouse.I also think it will eventually make DVD/Blu-ray obsolete by allowing us to store our movies digitally on personal webpages like MySpace.I think that makes much more sense then portomedia does.
Posted by step69 (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I think maybe you should have kept that comment to yourself and tried to start that website up yourself lol you have probably just given someone a very good business idea step69.
Posted by jojochops2025 (3 comments )
Link Flag
How about a machine that lets you select the movie, it burns on a disc, and spits it out. Never run out of stock and a machine can do it. No shipping or printing materials needed. It will keep cost down. I dont think were ready for all digital content yet and the dvd will thrive for a while longer. Again we burns, it spits it out. Why not? It can burn at a good quality iam sure with a professional type burner than standard PC burners.
Posted by joe3x (13 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I don't think this will fly. For a lot of the same reasons as the other comments, (1) onther device to deal with, (2) same hassle as going to the video store, (3) REbox works better with a hard copy.
Posted by starlifter701 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
At first this sounds okay! but after thinking about it and reading the other comments you realize that this may go for awhile and I can see TV makers adjusting and putting in ports for this type of technology. But I think that the initial cost will make it prohibitive. I won't be spending that amount of money to try it. No if you could bring in your own Flash drive to down load the movies onto for a reasonable price it might make it. And it would be more cost effective than shipping DVD's around the world. Wow, whats next?
Posted by SimonJLeonJr (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
I think alot of people are forgetting the iPod they are walking around with right now ..... can you honestly not imagine carrying movies around the same way?? I would be the first to go for something like this, I mean I went out and paid $500 to just watch DVD's that I still have to buy/rent. It may start out small but I can see the average person carrying around a key-ring with movies & music stored on it that can be played back in the car (just like your iPod), at home, hotel rooms, trains, planes etc. Think outside the box people, this could be big ........
Posted by ___Howly___ (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
We are Apex Tech Group, and we have developed a compression process that optimizes movies from MP2 to MP4 format to 17.5 % of the original without loss of resolution. Spiderman from iTunes iMovies is 1.35 Gbs., we have compressed it to 720Mgs.
This would compliment your PortoMedia's potential.
Posted by flickstix (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
someone made a comment saying that the hardware for this format is too expensive and then someone else replied saying that we had to buy dvd players to watch dvd's when they came out however while this is true we can buy or rent dvd's from anywhere and they can also be used to watch home movies transferred to disk, with this usb flash thing as some quite rightly stated earlier in this string we would be bound to one supplier and that is never good it takes away your freedom of choice and I think we are losing enough of that, we had to buy dvd's because they stopped making video recorders and stopped putting films on vhs we did not have a choice in that, also we have had to go digital because they have decided to turn off the analog signal something else we didn't have a say in and a lot of people went out and bought digital ready tv's when are people going to stop and just be happy with what they have instead of allowing these big corporations rip us off by telling us they are offering something better when in reality they are not.
Posted by jojochops2025 (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
so, guys is portomedia still around? can't seem to find anything on them dating after 2008?
Posted by stevechess (1 comment )
Link Flag
I came up with the same idea 5 years ago on a small scale and is using it in the Atlanta area as we speak. thanks for your grandiosity.
Posted by shebabuck (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Time for an update?
Posted by Heenan73 (100 comments )
Reply Link Flag
8GB is more than enough for my Canon PowerShot. I recently went to New York City for vacation and took more than 250 plus pics with the best pixel quality the camera could provide and still had more than enough memory left. Highly recommend this product. You don't need to carry any extra memory. <a href="">Get more information</a>
Posted by PatrickJackson1974 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag

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