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Amazon Unbox is serving up NBC video:

NBC says up until December you’ll be able to download programming from iTunes. But after that you will have to turn to other download distribution channels for NBC content including Amazon.com’s “Unbox” service [...] NBC wanted iTunes to jack the price of its TV shows to $5 an episode – up from $2. ITunes balked, and now NBC is saying bye.

Ironically, after all the hubbub, Amazon is selling shows for the same $1.99 – as Pol Pot Pie pointed out.

Key takeaway: NBC’s video content won’t be exclusively served via their properties (Hulu)… and I fully expect NBC and Apple to work something out by the end of the year given the large(r) reach and cross platform playback of iTunes content.

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Today’s Apple event was all about the iPod, with a little iPhone thrown in for good measure. (Nothing on Apple TV) Engadget and Ars Technica live-blogged the show. Here are the basics:

  • New ringtone maker – pay another $.99 to make ringtones out of your iTunes songs
  • New iPod Shuffle colors – pretty
  • (P)hat new iPod Nano – wide screen for pretty video
  • Cheaper 8GB iPhone – It’s gotta make the first movers feel good to see the 8GB model come down in price from $599 to $399. Be an early adopter, pay an extra $200.
  • The revolutionary iPhone, er, iPod touch – Yup, it’s an iPod that works like the iPhone without the phone, but it’s got Wi-Fi built in and you can access the iTunes store wirelessly
  • Wi-Fi and a dash of caffeine with your iPod – partnership with Starbucks so iPod Touch users can instantly tap in to whatever is playing over Starbucks’ speakers when they walk into a store and purchase the music if so desired.

Engadget is already calling the Starbucks feature weak, but I think I disagree. (How’s that for a strong statement?) Impulse music buying is still largely untapped. Sure you can bookmark songs with some services in order to buy them later, but we haven’t really seen an effective on-the-go version of this feature before. And this is music you can buy that you might never have discovered any other way. With the joy of personalized channels, I know my discovery of new music outside of my own set parameters is limited. Clearly the partnership with Starbucks is a first. Wonder how long before other partners jump on board.

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Philips has announced it’s getting into the DVR software game. Apparently undeterred by the presence of TiVo, Microsoft, Verizon and Comcast/Gemstar, not to mention PC players like ReplayTV, the CE company has developed the Personal TV Channel. The software includes a program guide and recommendation engine for building a personal channel of favorite TV content. It will also be able to access Internet video and podcasts. On timing, the word is that a PC version will be available early next year (CES 2008?) as a free download for Windows Vista users and will ship to set-top makers within a year.

So here’s my question. What kind of set-tops is the Philips software built for? Cable or IPTV? Unless the company already has a deal in the works with TiVo, for which it used to manufacture hardware, I’d guess IPTV. Microsoft is close to the only game in town on that front, and I know operators would like a few options available.

Buried toward the end of this morning’s WSJ article on Sony is a short blurb on Apple TV:

Apple’s set-top device called Apple TV, which lets users play music and video from their computer-based iTunes library, has not been selling strongly since it went on sale earlier this year, analysts say.

apple-tv.jpgI had numerous debates with people when Apple TV first launched about how successful it could be. Then and now the biggest argument for Apple TV has always been that it has the potential to become so much more. If you add HD content to iTunes it could be a great HD video machine. If you add a TV tuner and DVR features it could replace your set-top. If you give people a chance to pay a premium for no DRM, it could transform the video purchasing experience.

Unfortunately, each “if” is fraught with complications. The content companies are fiercely protective of their content and only want to work with Apple on their own terms. This goes double where HD video is concerned given fears of piracy and lost revenue. As for consumers, they (we) want access to content they’re used to getting from their cable, satellite or telecom company, and that means dealing with CableCARDs or some other workaround technology. No simple task.

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The Wall Street Journal tips us off to the obvious: “People familiar with the situation” have indicated Sony’s getting into the video download business. Not really a big surprise considering they’re a studio and they’re selling video Walkmen, PSPs (already announced video service), PS3s, and network-connected televisions.

Om Malik writes:

While that is a good move, it also leaves Sony playing in a highly commoditized market, and its best bet to make money from video downloading is by selling hardware.

It’s yet to be seen just how commoditized video downloads are… Heck NBC (may have) dumped Apple’s iTunes and others like HBO don’t have online offerings (yet). An era of exclusivity could be upon us. Perhaps NBC is reserving content for their upcoming Hulu portal. Additionally, Sony has more leverage as a movie and television studio. Given the whole Blu-ray/HD DVD debacle, I could see Sony limiting their content to their services and hardware.

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