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Video iPod plus Front Row: Media Center killer, or shoulder-shrug?

Are you content with the content?

4) We've never heard of this "Yoorp" of which you speak.

Desperate Housewives. Lost. Night Stalker. That's So Raven. Uh-huh, US programmes. Tell me, since these things are so closely tied to the machine to which they're downloaded, why is it you can buy them on the US iTunes Store, and not the UK or other European ones? Now, some will tell you - as Jobs sort of did - that it's because the channel that makes those series, ABC, is owned by Disney. "I know those guys," said Jobs. Indeed he does - and they know him. They're desperate to get Pixar to sign to a new distribution deal, and so you can imagine Disney was delighted to give Apple some content (suitably DRM-protected, obviously, and so small that if you expand it beyond 640x480, it'll pixellate like crazy) in return for getting a foot back in the door in the film distribution deal. (Oh, you can also buy short films from Pixar on the iTunes Store. Bet the negotiations there were tough.

"We've actually enjoyed a great relationship with Steve through Pixar," said Bob Eiger, Disney's chief. "It's great to be able to announce an extension of the relationship, with Apple. Not with Pixar, with Apple." A pause for knowing laughter from the audience. "Maybe another time, we'll see." You scratch my back...

OK, so perhaps you might think that the TV episodes being on sale in the US is just because of special dealings between Disney and Jobs. But this maddening regionalism extends to the music videos too. You can buy the music video for Kanye West's "Gold Digger" (featuring a number of the aforementioned fit ba.. skilled female dancers) on the US store; not in the UK, though. For why? The song's topping the charts both sides of the pond.

It's discontinuities like this which are most likely to rile the international users of these stores, who after all generate half Apple's revenue. And that's before you get to the Australians and New Zealanders, who are still waiting for their own iTunes Store. And speaking of discontinuities...

5) No, the phrase "exchange rate" means nothing to me.

For quite a while the excessive prices of Apple gear between the US and Europe has been a bugbear. Let's face it: the US dollar is in the toilet, for economic reasons that need not detain us. Suffice to say that the dollar-pound ratio is around the 1:1.75 mark, and we tend to pay higher taxes in the UK too.

There's no adequate explanation, then, for why a music video that costs $1.99 in the US should cost £1.89 in the UK. At prevailing rate,s it should be £1.13 or so. Even allowing for VAT at 17.5%, you'd only get up to £1.33. Someone is clearly ripping us off.

But in situations like these, it's a bit like stock markets: everyone's looking around for the greater fool to sell to. You want an iPod that plays video? Here you go. Oh, and here's some wayyy overpriced content to go on it. And here's some for your computer too.

In summary: lots of this seems to add up to a lot, yet so far doesn't. There's no doubt though that the iPod bandwagon will keep rolling, and crush more makers who thought they have something over Apple. The only thing separating any of them will be content - and Sony, being the owner of a film studio, is rather better placed to lead there. Plus the PSP is just a nice device.

And one last thing. Apple is clearly on to the rumour sites, and has worked out how to poison their sources reliably. When this announcement went out they were sure there would be a video iPod. Then Apple carefully tweaked expectations downwards - because if Jobs had unveiled the video iPod everyone had expected, well, where's the surprise in that? ®

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