TV to iPod, PSP conversion tools spill onto the market
Now you see it...
It’s been difficult to predict how Apple will continue to develop the video iPod, given that it had such a poor start in signing up so little content for the device.
Now, it’s barely a few days into the New Year and already there are appearing handfuls for software tools for putting “personal copy” video onto not just the iPod, but also onto the Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP).
As far as we can work out, none of these methods, with the possible exception of the TiVo to iPod/PSP software in TiVoToGo, launched late last year, carries any form of copy protection, and they all rely on unprotected free to air TV content being transferred to the world’s two most popular portable digital devices.
Last week video portal Blinkx copied the TiVo naming convention and launched blinkx.tv To Go, a tool to place video blogs onto iPods.
blinkx.tv To Go enables users to enter a search of video blogs, and either upload specific results to their iPod or portable video player, or save the search as a “channel,” which is automatically updated and fed to their iPod, or other portable device.
Additionally four other US companies, Hauppauge Computer Works, InterVideo, Proxure and Bling Software have launched products this week that do something similar, mostly citing the Video iPod, but all able to work just as well targeting the Sony PSP.
There are no official numbers for Apple Video iPods, but it is a certainty that Sony has shipped more PSPs with video capability because all PSPs are video capable, whereas only a small percentage of iPods can operate with video.
Hauppauge Computer Works released a new extension of its Wing software, sold for $24.95, which works with its PC-based personal video recorder. The software previously took live TV shows recorded them in H.264 and DivX formats, burning them to recordable DVDs.
Now customers can opt for copying them to an iPod or PSP, both of which are H.264 compliant.
InterVideo added a new version of its DVD Copy software for $70, again able to covert video files for the iPod, Sony PSP and many 3G cell phones, while Proxure launched MyTV ToGo, a $30 application which transfers TV shows recorded for a Microsoft Windows Media Center PC to Apple's video iPod.
The Bling product XcopyPod, transfers exiting DVD movies to an Apple's video iPod.
What all of this does is sway the hand of Apple. For as long as there is no copy protection on normally transmitted TV content, then making personal copies with VHS players, DVD recorders and of course Video iPods and PSPs, is perfectly legal. While there are moves afoot to make this illegal in the US, by means of a broadcast flag, it is unlikely that this legislation, if passed in the US, would ever find its way into European or Asian copyright laws.
The upshot of this is that any business models that rely on “selling” copies of previously televised TV shows, such as Apple’s sale of “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives,” is doomed to failure. Why pay for that content when it can be extracted for free. There is a wealth of difference between what Apple is doing as far as the content companies are concerned, because it places the content under the protection of its Fairplay DRM. These other methods leave content unencrypted and in the clear, a potential source for internet piracy.
But from the point of view of the consumer, the free personal copies versus the paid personal copies are going to mean that Apple will sell iPods, but not sell much content. Instead it may have to take on a strategy closer to Sony’s and negotiate for high value film content on iTunes which is not widely available via broadcast, because it is protected by conditional access systems and still in their pay per view video window.
In the meantime Apple and Disney this week said they will expand their iPod content sales partnership to include ESPN, ABC Sports and ABC News, selling programs for $1.99 each from Apple's iTunes store.
Apple already sells programming from Disney’s ABC, including just shown episodes of Desperate Housewives, and Lost.
Copyright © 2006, Faultline
Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of the week's events in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here.