Apple Computer may be at the helm of another revolution. More than two years ago, the tech company rocked the music industry when it won...
SAN JOSE, Calif. — Apple Computer may be at the helm of another revolution.
More than two years ago, the tech company rocked the music industry when it won landmark licensing deals with the record labels to sell songs over the Internet and let users play the tunes on their portable iPod music players.
The move heralded a new — and legal — distribution method for music and sparked a cultural phenomenon.
Now, Apple hopes to achieve a similar feat with Hollywood with its latest iteration of the iPod.
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Apple CEO Steve Jobs introduced an iPod capable of playing videos yesterday, evolving the portable music player of choice into a multimedia platform for everything from TV shows to music videos.
Videos will now be sold online alongside songs on Apple’s iTunes Music Store.
Citing a groundbreaking deal with ABC Television, Jobs said video offerings via iTunes will include episodes for $1.99 each of the hit shows “Desperate Housewives” and “Lost,” which will be available the day after they air on television.
The purchased video can be watched on a computer or taken on the road for viewing on the new iPod’s 2.5-inch color screen.
The much anticipated new iPods, available starting next week, will replace Apple’s current 20-gigabyte and 60-gigabyte models. A 30 GB version will sell for $299, and a 60 GB will cost $399.
Apple hopes to repeat with Hollywood the coup it achieved with music labels: Ease an industry’s piracy fears and transform its business models to include convenient, legal distribution of digital content over the Internet at reasonable prices.
“It’s never been done before, where you could buy hit TV shows and buy them online the day after they’re shown,” said Jobs, whose other company, Pixar Animation Studios, has a long relationship with ABC’s parent, The Walt Disney Co. Short films from Pixar also will be sold via the iTunes store.
But that’s just the beginning, Apple executives say, noting that the iTunes store catalog has grown to 2 million songs from 200,000 at launch in 2003. More than 600 million downloads have been recorded since.
“We’ve gained a lot of credibility in the industry in the past two and a half years with what we did with songs,” said Eddy Cue, Apple’s vice president of applications. “And that’s what we’re trying to mirror in the video space.”
Analysts consider a video iPod a test of whether consumers would embrace video on such a small screen. Over-the-air TV services are already available for cellphones but the quality remains substandard.
Competing portable video players have been available for several years but very little compelling content has been available, and Apple’s move comes amid fledgling initiatives to offer original video programming on the Internet.
“This is the first giant step to making more content available to more people online,” said Robert Iger, Disney’s chief executive. “It is the future as far as I’m concerned. It’s a great marriage between content and technology and I’m thrilled about it.”
The new video iPod, available in black or white, will be able to play video and podcasts. Apple said the 30 GB model will have up to 14 hours of battery life while the 60 GB model’s battery will last up to 20 hours. Both versions will include a clock, a calendar, a stop watch and a screen lock.
The new iPod will also support the MPEG-4 video standard, meaning users could view home movies and other unencrypted videos on it.
Apple also introduced yesterday two newer, thinner models of the all-in-one iMac desktop computer.
Each of the 17-inch and 20-inch iMac G5 models, priced at $1,299 and $1,699 respectively, comes with a built-in Webcam and a slim, six-button remote control about the size of thin pack of gum.
The new iMacs also carry new software called “Photo Booth” that allows users to take quick snapshots and send them to others via e-mail.