TV My iPod: Why Didn't I Think of That?

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Date: Wednesday, November 23rd, 2005, 15:31
Category: iPod

TVMyiPod‘s pitch is tempting: “The first online store to offer brand new Apple video iPods pre-loaded with your favorite DVD collections at NO EXTRA CHARGE!”
It works like this: You buy the iPod video from them at the same price as the Apple store. You buy DVDs from them, popular titles in a variety of categories, season collections and all, starting at US$20. They custom rip every DVD for you onto the iPod, for the same price as the iPod and the same price as the movies from Best Buy. They even send you the DVD itself. Sound too good to be true?
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TVMyiPod‘s pitch is tempting: “The first online store to offer brand new Apple video iPods pre-loaded with your favorite DVD collections at NO EXTRA CHARGE!”
It works like this: You buy the iPod video from them at the same price as the Apple store. You buy DVDs from them, popular titles in a variety of categories, season collections and all, starting at US$20. They custom rip every DVD for you onto the iPod, for the same price as the iPod and the same price as the movies from Best Buy. They even send you the DVD itself. Sound too good to be true?
First things first, I don’t if they actually have all these movies, or if they just advertise they do and wait for people to order them. Even if they have all these movies, they sure as hell don’t rip them each time for you, clearly they rip them once for all iPods then sync them with each iPod depending on your order.
They claim it takes weeks or a month to complete the order (whining about the labor intensiveness of it). Open iPod box, pull out iPod, sync iPod on mac mini with movies that customer ordered, walk away and play Starcraft, wait for beep to indicate it’s done, check iPod, put iPod in iPod box, put iPod box in shipping box with the DVDs they ordered, put at door and wait for UPS guy. An hour, tops? The one month thing is just in case anybody who’s going to spend MORE money to load up their iPod can probably spend another 50 bucks to get it in a rush.
As for the hardware to get this started? They probably have a movie reseller agreement with someone like Suncoast video, like a bunch of the Ebay movie sellers have to get the movies for around US$10 a pop, maybe cheaper. Start with one Mac mini and use the built-in connection to an existing TV to save on the monitor. With more rush orders coming in they can simply buy as many US$500 headless Mac mini’s they need. Use VNC to control the minis and you don’t need a monitor on each unit to synch iTunes. Dump the files on a central server that each mini running iTunes can access or just copy each movie to each workstation.
I’m mad that I didn’t think of this first. it’s just too simple. That said, there is one thing still bothering me. It might not be as easy as these guys buying movies from a reseller. Converting movies from DVD is technically illegal, because they are breaking copyrighted encryption. Now they are clearly gearing up for Christmas with this bait:

“Place your order by November 25 for guaranteed holiday delivery!
-If you want to purchase this service as a gift but are ordering after the 25th:
Email us and we’ll send a personalized card to the recipient detailing the unbelievably thoughtful gift that they’ll be receiving! Because this service is exceptionally time-consuming and labor intensive, it will take 3-5 weeks to receive your loaded iPod. Need your iPod in a hurry? Choose the Ordering Options selection for expedited processing.”

So even if it is illegal and they have no inside deal to redistribute movies on behalf of the big guys, by the time the movie companies figure out they are losing money because these guys are reselling their movies in different formats to make a buck – something the movie companies won’t share with anyone – the kids will be past Christmas laughing their way to the bank before they get the cease-and-desist order.
As far as I can tell, with 321 Studios trying to make this argument and getting shut down entirely, these guys don’t have a legal leg to stand on.
So let’s say they ONLY get 100 rush orders the week after the 25th. That’s US$5,000 in priority fees alone, or enough to buy 10 more workstations to make more orders, even though I think the whole thing probably runs on 1-3 Macs and a central server, tops. The actions don’t take that long to move the files over, and it’s something they can multitask with. It’s not like your counting on a data processing person who gets tired and needs coffee, your bottleneck is FireWire or USB 2.0 transfer time with built-in error correction.
I’m half curious if the entire thing from email order to iPod loading could be automated by parsing the PayPal confirmation receipt of payment. AppleScript parses the incoming email, if mail is from PayPal, look for keywords like “has sent you money”, look for titles, tell iTunes to move those titles to iPod and print label. This is probably way further than their setup.
Disgusting vile money grubbing bastards, why didn’t they let me think of this first?
(Contributed by Tim)

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