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Apple, Twitter, and Digital Sharecropping

Bunny SnugglesDear Reader,

Recently Apple and Twitter have made the news. Apple pissed off it’s “media partners” by reinventing their business model for them and clamping down on subscriptions that they didn’t get a piece of. Twitter pissed off its developers by telling them “So long and thanks for all the fish” in a posting in their developer group. Raffi Krikorian later clarified by saying, “we don’t think there are
as many business opportunities in making a piece of software that
*simply* renders any of our timeline methods” Apparently, they have hired Tony Soprano as head of developer relations. In both cases, a company has decided that a the infrastructure it has built is more important than the creative individuals that help make that network valuable. Basically, both companies have said “deal with it, bitches!” to a group that thought they were very important. (and you really have to hear ElizabethN say that before you really get the full impact.)

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My iPod ate my movie rentals!

Dear Reader,

UPDATE:

I hate it when I am wrong, thank goodness it doesn’t happen often.

Within 24 hrs of reporting a problem, I received an email from Apple Customer Support. They were nice and re-queued the movies for download, reset my counters for DRM and gave me explicit instructions on how to get them back on my iPod. (Which is a good thing because I didn’t realize those menu items existed) Apple did what all companies should do, within reason, they made things right. They still need to fix the *&^%$ bug, but overall I will have to give Apple an A+ on their customer service.

Friday evening I rented 2 movies from the Apple store for my trip home Saturday from Cupertino. Saturday morning, I transfered them to my iTouch (1.1.4) and everything was sunshine and roses. I boarded the plane, climbed to 10,000 feet, whipped out my iPod and watched 1/2 of the first one before landing in Las Vegas.

While in Vegas, I decided to top off the charge on my iPod since i had a few minutes to kill. Something bad happened here and to the best of my knowledge Apple failed to notify me. Since iTunes was already up, my iPod synced and then charged. The only notice I got was ‘iTunes can’t connect to the store’ (or something like that.) which I thought nothing of since I had not yet connected to the airport’s free wi-fi. (That is one of the few great things about flying through Vegas. The food on Concourse C is teh suxor but they have free wi-fi!) Anyhow, I left it charging for a while then packed up and got in cattle shoot B, which is where Southwest had assigned me. Fast-forward to 10,000 feet and I’m anxious to finish the movie, so I pull out my iPod…only, there’s no movie, both had been deleted and the time was wrong too. Now I’m pissed off because both my movies are gone and I’ve still got 3 hrs in the air. Oh well, what are you going to do while in the air.

So today I start poking around. I found this on the random ipod time issue. and the best I can figure, when I plugged in my iPod, iTunes assigned it a random time, that invalidated my movie rentals and they were deleted. (It’s a theory, we may never really know the cause.)

So, I’m out $10. More importantly, this points to the underlying reason that buying anything from Apple makes me nervous. I got in a “twitter-spat” the other day about Apple and how their customer service is horrible. In most cases, Apple’s hardware/software works and works great, that’s what makes them great. However if you have a problem and need to get help, you are usually out of luck. In my case, there is no way to dispute the fact that I didn’t watch the movies. Apples assumes that if I didn’t watch them it’s my own fault because their software could never malfunction therefore if I’m looking for a refund, I’m just trying to rip them off. (I’m projecting here kiddies)

The random time issue has been discussed for a year now, Apple has released several iTunes and iPod updates since it was first reported and yet, they have still not fixed it. c’Mon guys, you are really starting to look like Microsoft here. Fix the dang bug because now it’s costing people (me) money and I’m betting that it’s going to affect other people too.

Anyhow, if you rent movies for your iPod be careful. If thing go wrong, you are out of luck.

UPDATE: I found the “Report a problem” button and have reported both movies and the bug. Let’s see if they respond.

Until next time,
(l)(k)(bunny)
=C=

iTunes vs. Xbox vs. Tivo for Movie Rentals

Dear Reader,

I use iTunes every now and then to rent a movie for my iTouch; usually when I’m traveling. Last night I rented a movie via my XBox 360 from Microsoft and previously, I’ve rented movies from Amazon’s Unbox from my Tivo. Here is a chart laying out the basics of each of the three options. Below it I’ll discuss my thoughts on them.

  XBox 360 iTunes Tivo
Minimum
Hardware Price
$349 $229 $99
HD Yes * Yes No
Monthly Fee $5 $0 $12.95
Movie Price 480 Points (aprox $6.95) $.99 – $3.99 $1.99 – $3.99
Terms Expires 15 days (24 hrs after you click play) Expires 30 days (24 hrs after you click play) Expires 30 days (24 hrs after you click play)
Mobile Device None iPod family Windows Based Laptop

Ok, first my thoughts on each service:

XBox 3060

I love my XBox for gaming; I even use it for watching DVDs. However, I don’t see myself renting many movies from them. First, they are the most expensive option, per-movie for new releases. I bought 500 “points” from them for $6.95 and “3:10 to Yuma” was 480. Maybe it’s cheaper if I buy more points at a time but honestly, I hate the whole points system. Why should I buy up a bunch of points and let MS hold onto my money? Microsoft needs to grow up and let adults use currency for our transactions, this isn’t NeoPets. Finally, while rumors abound of being able to download movies to a portable player (Zune, which I don’t have and probably won’t be getting any time soon), Microsoft doesn’t yet have a strategy in place. You watch it on your XBox…period. Honestly, that’s probably fine for a lot of people, but not for me.

XBox 360 Summary

Reduce the price of movies, let me rent them using hard currency instead of your company scrip, and let me move them to my portable device.

iTunes

I am not an Apple fanboi. There are parts of Apple (like their horrid customer service after the sale) that I deplore and makes me wary of purchasing from them. However, I do believe they have got it right this time around. The Apple TV can be added to any entertainment syste for $329. There are no monthly fees for usage and you can download damn near anything to it. I don’t yet have one but I’m a big enough iTunes fan to see the potential here. I have rented movies from iTunes for my iTouch and can say that the experience is painless. I’ve probably bought 5 movies from them and rented 1. It’s always very easy and the price for rentals isn’t bad. The only negative I have is in the licensing but that really applies to everyone so I’ll save it for a special section below.

ITunes Summary

It’s the winner, hands down. They have cheap hardware, no monthly fees, reasonable prices and a portable device strategy. Really the only downside is the stupid licensing…which I discuss later.

Tivo/Unbox

I’ve had a Tivo since they first came out. I currently have 2 and love moving things between them. When Tivo announced their deal with Amazon unbox, I was excited. I’ve now rented 2 movies from them and overall, I am happy with the experience. The downside is unless you catch them on a special deal, you have to pay a monthly fee for your Tivo service. I waited till they put them on special then bought my HD with Lifetime service so I don’t have a monthly fee. (Given my history with Tivo devices, I do actually save money buying the lifetime.) I have 2 problems with Tivo/Unbox though.

  1. I like the ability to move things to my iTouch. Tivo/Unbox won’t let you do that.
  2. You currently can’t rent HD movies. That’s a huge negative in my book.

You can rent movies and download them to your laptop via Amazon Unbox. This may give some small comfort to travelers. I’ve not tested this though so I don’t know if you can watch the content untethered from the Net. (i.e. in an airplane)

Tivo/Unbox Summary

It’s not a reason to buy a Tivo but if you already have one and can live without HD, it’s a good system.

Wishlist

Ok, here are the things that none of them get right and I wish they would.

NetFlix/Microsoft

Rumor has it that Microsoft and NetFlix may be working on a deal. I don’t see why Microsoft would be interested in this deal as it would kill their rental revenue but if they did, and I could pay my monthly NetFlix fee and have my queue downloaded straight to my XBox, that would rock. They would have to work out the licensing issues as right now I can watch a movie an unlimited number of times and that’s an important feature. This union, if it happened in the right way, may make my XBox the most important piece of equipment in my entertainment system.

Microsoft/iTunes

I’m dreaming here but the best of all worlds would be for Microsoft to cut a deal with Apple and let me use iTunes on my XBox like I can on my PC. This would totally rock because I get Apple’s pricing, downloads to my iTouch AND my XBox too. There are just too many reasons why this won’t happen (the main one is you can’t fit Jobs’ and Gates’ ego in the same room.) but it would be awesome if it did.

Better Licensing Terms

Now that I can rent movies from iTunes, I won’t be buying anymore. Mainly because I can only play them on one of 5 iTunes devices listed on my account. The reason I LIKE DVDs is I can give it to my son, he can take it upstairs and watch it, I can take it over to the neighbors and we can watch it with friends, heck, I can even use Handbreak, rip it and stuff it on my iTouch. This “You have x days to watch it and it expires 24 hours after you press play” is bad. Get rid of it now and I’m much more interested in rentals and downloads.

Summary

Downloads and rentals will kill physical media in the next 2-3 years. Most of that is thanks to Apple and Amazon. Overall, I think this is a good thing. However, I’m one of those weird people who can live without the content produced by the major television and movie studios. There has not been a movie produced in the last ten years that was “must see” for me. So if the hardware/software industry is going to keep treating me like a criminal (with abominations like Vista) and the studios are going to keep trying harder and harder to make me pay for their content each and every time I watch it or for each devices I want to watch it on, I’ll just watch less and less of it. There’s enough good stuff being produced out there independently to keep me entertained. However, if you let me watch my content where ever and whenever I want, I’ll keep paying you.

Until next time,
(l)(k)(bunny)
=C=