AN IRISH OUTFIT, PortoMedia, is to open kiosks at which people can download the latest films straight onto a flash memory card in less than a minute.
The kiosks, in shopping centres or stations, will have up to 5,000 films available for rent or sale using a PIN number.
All punters need do in order to buy or rent a flick is to plug in their memory device, a key bought from the company resembling a standard USB, enter a PIN code, and then when they arrive home, connect the device into a dock attached to their TV and hey presto! Movie madness!
Galway-based PortoMedia reckons that a standard-definition film can be transferred to the card in 8 to 60 seconds, depending on the feature's length and the chip's speed. High-definition movies, which the service will only make available at some point in the future, will be downloadable in 18 to 45 seconds, according to the company.
The start-up already conducted a trial test of their product in Dublin at the end of last year and plans to officially launch itself in four, as of yet unknown, U.S. cities around Spring 2008. Also, according to CNET, two anonymous retailers have already signed up for PortoMedia's MoviePoint kiosks.
Of greater significance, the company's founder, physicist Chris Armstrong, says that some of the major studies (which he neglects to name) are going to allow PortoMedia to press ahead with their plans, which apparently means they will be unhindered by pesky lawsuits.
The Irish boffins have set themselves up with some pretty solid partners including IBM (who helped develop the transaction system), Seagate Technologies (who helped develop the drive itself), Samsung (who provided the flash memory) and Toshiba (who developed the high-speed interface chips).
The company boasts it can hit a sustained bandwidth of 95 megabits per second or higher, prompting some venture capitalists to ask whether the company would not be better advised to turn the company into an interface chip-maker, licensing technology to other semiconductor manufacturers. But Armstrong is standing firm and sticking to movies.
The main advantages to the distribution model are that it does away with costs for packaging and shipping of DVDs, saves on shelf space, offers thousands of titles and, like Netflix, the time for viewing the rented movie doesn't start until the renter actually presses "play".
It also makes downloading long movies a bit pointless. A starter pack, will sell for around $60 and will include a flash key, a dock, and six movies. But real movie nuts can spend approx $160 for a handheld with 240GB of storage, a better dock and 12 films.
The company will face competition from brick-and-mortar video stores, Netflix and other mail-order services, video on demand, and various online-to-TV models including Apple TV and the upcoming Netflix/LG set-top box. µ
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