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October 14th, 2005

TV Shows from iTunes – The Verdict

So unless you’ve been under a rock, you probably know that the iTunes Music Store now sells TV shows. But before you think you can download episodes of Saved by the Bell note that there are only five to choose from – it’s clearly an alpha release.

I decided to give the whole thing a spin by downloading the two-part pilot of Lost, a show I’m really enjoying and hadn’t seen until the current second season. I bought the episodes for four bucks. Each one was around 200MB for a 45-minute (ish) episode, and took about half that time to download – but I was doing other activities on the internets at the time.

Once the first ep was downloaded, I fired it up and watched it full-screen. The video quality is, ah, not perfect. It’s definitely “good” but not HD or anything of the sort. It’ll look just fine on the wee iPod, but on my 20″ iMac it was equivalent to TiVo’s Basic Quality setting. Acceptable, no more, no less. Sound quality was top-notch with no oddities or anything. So that was good.

After watching both episodes, though, I felt a little weird about the whole thing because part of me really wanted to pony up the $35 and buy the whole season and another part of me didn’t, because the quality wasn’t so hot. Now if I could rent them for half the price, that I would do. Let ’em expire after a week. Then, it’s a buck a show and that’s very much worth it to me. One dollar for a rental, two and you own it. Easy.

I’m not giving up on the concept because it’s a really solid one. Once more shows and networks are on board (like HBO) and the quality is better (which is a given over time), I think Apple will be in a really unique situation. They’ve definitely made the barrier to entry low; now let’s just hope everyone gets on board.

Posted in Consumer Commentary

FROM: Merle [E-Mail]
DATE: Saturday October 15, 2005 -- 2:54:17 pm
Or just wait for Netflix to get them.

I still don't get the appeal of video on a tiny device. They purposefully made the ipods small... but small screen = incredibly lo-res.

But I don't understand why people would want colour PDAs, either. It burns up batteries many times more quickly, and most of what one would use a PDA for is text, right?

FROM: Merle [E-Mail]
DATE: Saturday October 15, 2005 -- 2:55:02 pm
By the way, I tried the "= =" thing (two equals signs but no space between) and got this message again:

"No can do. If you're a legit person and see this error, write the Ping."

So consider this your notice. ;-)

FROM: Paul
DATE: Sunday October 16, 2005 -- 10:55:37 am
Merle: no double equals for you! Or anyone!

I still don't get the appeal of video on a tiny device.

To me it makes sense for two reasons: 1. it's not the primary drive of the iPod (yet), and 2. you can hook it up to a TV, so you can output to a TV... but then there's the resolution issue.

FROM: Merle [E-Mail]
DATE: Sunday October 16, 2005 -- 11:18:16 am
Aaawww... but Paul, I need to double equals! It shows off the C++ geek in me!

I guess that makes sense. I just have zero need for having a portable copy of, say, Saved by the Bell that I can whip out of my pocket and show to friends. It's a sexy technology, but is it ultimately useful?

But now you've made me curious to try out the TiVo "basic" setting. I just immediately assumed it would suck and set the default quality to "ultra-supreme". Even "high" shows artifacts in certain shows like anime (although it's fine for, say, West Wing).

FROM: aharris
DATE: Thursday October 20, 2005 -- 4:32:26 pm
you can hook it up to a TV, so you can output to a TV... but then there's the resolution issue.

Unless you've got a fancy hi-def television resolution wouldn't be an issue. An NTSC monitor has a far lower resolution than even your crappiest computer monitor. Which is why you can put a 320 x 240 movie "to tape" and it looks peachy on your tv.

I can see other pratical uses for the iPod video. You have the ability to carry your "movies" around with you and show them on a whim. "have you seen my niece? no? lights please!" It's like having your very own pocket-sized slide projector. It's far easier than hooking up your iBook to someone's tv. Trust me. :)

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