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Apple iPad: New Dawn for Movie Downloads?


By : Erik Gruenwedel | Posted: 28 Jan 2010

Apple Inc.’s unveiling last week of its much-hyped iPad — a 9.7-inch touch-screen device that allows for Web browsing, plays music, games, and can run more than 140,000 applications — could become the catalyst for movie downloads that the iPod was for music, analysts say.

Indeed, the iPad, through iTunes, would have access to thousands of releases categorized among the Top 100 rental and sellthrough titles, including The Invention of Lying, Gamer, Inglourious Basterds, Julie & Julia, The Hangover and episodes of “Jersey Shore,” “24,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Bones,” “Fringe,” “Caprica” and “30 Rock,” among others.

The device could also help Apple turn the page on the underperforming AppleTV, which couldn’t access the Internet and had a limited capacity, among other issues.

While electronic sellthrough and rental distribution of Hollywood movies and television shows are readily available on the PC and increasingly the TV, mainstream adoption continues to lag due in large part to the limited screen size afforded on portable media devices.

“It’s the slickest screen that doesn’t strain your eyes if you are over 40,” said analyst Richard Doherty with The Envisioneering Group, who expects Apple to sell millions of iPads in the first year.

Doherty said he expects Apple to announce new content license deals in the coming weeks as momentum builds toward in-store availability. Specifically, he said studios are keen to Apple’s marketing prowess and the fact the iPad has increased safeguards against piracy.

“Almost every cell phone has SD cards, and even the iPhone can by synched illegally,” Doherty said. “But it is very difficult to get anything out of the iPad. It is something people in Hollywood have been looking for some time: An eyes-only portable device that could ultimately generate new movie pricing and release windows.”

But don’t expect Netflix, with its popular Watch Instantly streaming service, to jump on the iPad bandwagon, according to CEO Reed Hastings.

In a call with investors, Hastings said the company hadn’t submitted an iPhone application, and he wasn’t sure what Apple’s stance would be regarding its streaming service.

“It's not a huge priority for us because we’re so focused on the larger screens,” Hastings said. “Until we get our TV ubiquity and our Blu-ray Disc ubiquity, and we’re getting close on video game ubiquity, then we would next turn to the small screen. It’s just not a primary movie watching [option]. So it’s something we will get around to, but it’s not in the near term.”

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