Companies like Apple and Microsoft have managed to persuade a good few people that the future distribution of music, movies and almost everything else will be internet based. Whilst it would be hard to disagree that music has almost entirely shifted to digital distribution, with iTunes becoming the most popular music supplier in the US, the same can’t be said for video.
The above mentioned companies have provided some pretty slick ways in which to watch movies and TV shows over the net on your computer and/or T.V. A couple of years ago Apple released the AppleTV – a tiny set top box that syncs with your iTunes library much like a giant static iPod. The user can play movies, music and podcasts on the big TV rather than sitting in front of a desk or staring at a tiny laptop screen. Apple then released an update that included ‘renting’ high def movies and TV shows.
Microsoft has done a very similar thing with the XBox 360. Movies can be rented or downloaded and in America users can stream movies for (almost) free if they already have a Netflix account (the American Lovefilm).
All of these things sound very cool. No more trips to the video shop and no more waiting for that Lovefilm DVD (if in fact they have enough copies to send you a new release) to arrive. That would be if UK ISPs aloud us to download a decent amount of these movies. For the last couple of weeks our internet connection has been running at a speed of 125kb/s between the hours of 9am and 11pm. This is because we have apparently downloaded over 50GBs of data. Now I’m not saying that that is not a ridiculous amount of data – it really is. But these HD movie downloads from Apple and Microsoft often come in at about 4GB. Even without downloading a few podcasts, system updates and a couple of albums you could only watch 13 movies a month before you went over the limit. What happens if you were a family buying each other movies for Christmas?
ISPs don’t usually print their fair usage limits on their websites. Rather annoyingly they just write ‘unlimited’. It would be interesting to see how much each ISP considered too much to download in a month. I know for sure that my housemates and I downloaded a lot more than 50GBs some months when with Be (a company I cannot recommend enough).
I just wish that the telecoms companies and the government spent a bit of time and money on creating a decent fiber network like the one in Japan that delivers 100Mb/s with no limits. Or I suppose it would also be nice if someone other than Virgin were running their network but lets not get into that just now…