Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Starz to offer download movie service for PDAs

MSNBC.com reports that Starz "is launching a movie download service that allows consumers to view full-length studio films, concerts and TV shows on portable devices powered by Microsoft Corp. software." The service, dubbed "Vongo," will be announced at CES and at a monthly subscription of $9.99. The service will "eventually include more than 1,000 movies, short films and other programs," and will be made "available at the same time they are offered on the Starz premium movie cable channel, about five to six months after they are released on DVD."

According to the article, "users will be able to download as many films as they want each month to up to three devices, including Windows-based computers and portable devices running Microsoft's Portable Media Center software." in addition, a smaller number of "films will be available several months sooner for a pay-per-view fee of $3.99. Subscribers will also be able to watch a live, streaming video feed of the Starz TV channel."

Rob Enderle said, "It's kind of iTunes for movies." Enderle among others thought the "service will reinvigorate the market for portable devices, such as the ones already offered by Creative Technology Ltd. and iRiver. The devices have not taken off, in large part because of a lack of compelling content, most notably big studio movies."

Laura Behrens at Gartner noted that a number of devices will be announced at CES to compete with Apple. She said, "The portability is key." Video will be able to be shown from the portable device on a TV via a cable. Behrens added, "It's not elegant, it's not perfect, but it's a step."

Over at CNET News.com, Josh Bernoff at Forrester Research noted that Vongo not yet working with iPod was a significant problem. He said the Microsoft Portable Media Center devices "have not done particularly well so far. They don't have the momentum that the iPod does." He thought the market for Vongo would be modest, "mainly among people who want to watch movies on their computers, or more likely on laptops while traveling."