Blockbuster Total Access Changes

I use (and love) Netflix, but I’ve been following this whole hoopla about the changes that Blockbuster is doing with their Netflix competitor, Total Access.  I’ve also been trying to persuade my office-mate to ditch Blockbuster in favor of Netflix. I think I may have found the solution…

Knowzy.com put up an article that outlines the Total Access changes.  Reading it, I can’t help but think of a lot of infamous New York City based camera stores.  Read the next paragraph if you don’t know about the NYC camera store racket, otherwise, skip the paragraph. 

You see, when you search online for cameras, you will find many of them at unbelievably cheap prices.  You go to order your camera, which claims to be in stock, and all is well.  Then, a few hours later, you get a call from the camera store, and they try to sell you accessories: "Well, you’ll need a memory card.  You’ll need an additional battery.  How about a tripod?"  If you don’t buy these accessories (which typically have higher margins for the company in question), they’ll suddenly tell you that your camera went out of stock.  (People, seriously, do a store search on resellerratings.com before you buy a digital camera or computer parts)  This scam is pretty well known, especially for camera "stores" in Brooklyn.  I use the term "store" loosely, as people have taken photos of them and found them to be nothing but abandoned storefronts often times.  Just do a search for Brooklyn Camera Stores and you’ll see what I mean.

(side note: B&H Photo is a glaring exception to this NYC camera store hate that I have.  They rock. Seriously.  You may spend more money with B&H than you would elsewhere, but you’ll be happier in the end.)

So, anyway, back to Blockbuster.  It seems that they’ve confirmed that they’re basically singling out customers that exchange movies from the store most recently (which drives up their costs) and/or never buy anything at the store.  This is a racket, plain and simple.  You don’t buy our high-margin stuff, and we won’t let you have access to our low-margin stuff.

Nice business sense, Blockbuster.  This is downright slimeball behavior.

Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World

Diann & I snagged [Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World](http://www.netflix.com/Movie/Looking_for_Comedy_in_the_Muslim_World/70041165?trkid=203957) from Netflix.

I’d like to take a moment to let Albert Brooks (the writer, director, and main actor) know something: I’m Norwegian, and it wasn’t funny to me either.

We didn’t even get through the movie. Horrible. At least we watched all of [A Dirty Shame](http://www.netflix.com/Movie/A_Dirty_Shame/60036243?trkid=189533&strkid=1142834206_1_0).

Shuffle the Netflix queue

So, I wanted to shuffle my Netflix queue up, basically to spread the HD-DVD love around the queue instead of all in one block.

I found this page with details on how to do it.

Basically, you add this bookmarklet to your bookmarks (right-click on the link, and hit “Add to favorites”), and when you’re looking at your queue, just hit that favorite. Then update your queue, and you’re shuffled.

(Then, it’s just a simple matter of re-ordering sequential movies so you get them in order.. Like the Star Wars series, for example.)

Web Recommendations Systems

So, I blogged previously about how I love Netflix's recommendations system, and it's a lot like Amazon's as well.

I wonder why these sites (along with others that do recommendations) only mark things as recommended — why don't they tell me if I probably won't like something I'm looking at?

I understand it in the case of Amazon — it's in their interest to sell me everything. On the other hand, it's in Netflix's interest to have me not check out a movie.

Apple: What are they thinking?

So, at this morning's Showtime Event Apple unveiled several things, most of which were expected. Notably absent: the rumored full screen video iPod.

At any rate, one of the things they announced that people did expect was the ability to download movies from iTunes. Good idea, poor execution.

You see, Apple set the price point for movies at $12.99 for pre-order and first-week sales, and $14.99 thereafter.

Visiting Amazon, it looks as though the average price of their top-sellers are around $17.50 now. Yeah, but you have to wait a few days for those, and maybe have to pay shipping. Visiting Best Buy, price points are all over the place, but I'd say it averages out to around $17 for normal DVDs.

So, for that extra $2-$2.50, you get the pretty DVD casing (meh), and the physical media. In addition, you probably get the extras that go on DVDs: deleted scenes, multiple languages, subtitles, outtakes, etc. Also, as part of your extra $2-$2.50, you get actual DVD quality (Steve Jobs said “near DVD quality 640×480″ for iTMS movies (and come on, 3:2 format?)). As a bonus for your hard-earned $2-$2.50, you also get real surround sound: Dolby Digital, DTS, THX. Steve Jobs says you get “Dolby Surround” – anyone that knows the difference between Pro Logic and Dolby Digital or DTS or THX knows that it makes a huge difference.

And seriously, I don't know when the last time I bought a DVD was. For $10/month, I get as many movies as the USPS can shuttle around with Netflix.

My point is: Apple had a huge opportunity to get a major win in this market, but they basically blew it.

(also of note: Steve Jobs didn't wear a black turtleneck!)

My other thoughts on the keynote:

  • gapless playback: about time.
  • games: not bad. Though the picture of Bejeweled saying “Just for iPod”? Funny, they must've missed Xbox Live Arcade's rendition of the same. Otherwise, the games hit list reads a lot like the Xbox Live Arcade line-up: Zuma, Hold-em, PacMan…
  • iTunes 7: woah, looks like the copy machines are going in Cupertino as well – a lot of these features are in the recently announced Windows Media Player 11.
  • NFL: Maybe interesting. At $1.99 per game, it's not badly priced. But, but there seems to be a catch: Steve Jobs says that “game highlights” are coming to iTMS — not the game, just a highlight reel.
  • iTV: Could be interesting and compelling. We'll see in Q1 2007. Potential to compete with what Windows Media Center and Xbox 360 already do, as well as what the Playstation 3 is supposed to do.