It might not be the flashiest press release that Apple’s put out in the last two years, but today’s announcement that U.S. customers will be able to buy movies* from the iTunes Store on the same day they’re released on DVD is huge. “Walmart and Amazon and Target and Best Buy are probably freaking out right now” sort of huge.
This particular omission from the iTunes Store was, to our eyes, seriously crippling Apple’s ability to compete with the big boys on video sales. Imagine what iTunes would have looked like for music buyers if it couldn’t sell or pre-order new releases—well, you don’t really need to imagine it, as the video section of iTunes used to look that way, filled largely with films you’d all but forgotten about and had to search to find something interesting. There was also that daunting question: why pay $15 for a “new release” today when you could have gone to Target and gotten the DVD for around the same price a week or more ago?
When iTunes movie rentals—both SD and HD versions—are truly available on the same day as DVD releases, Netflix and Blockbuster have a lot to worry about. And that asterisk above? Apple still needs to bulk up its video catalog, a lot, before it can truly compete with DVD stores. But there’s no doubt; Apple’s finally on the right path with video, and anyone who doubts that it’s driving a bulldozer would be well-advised to bulk up or get out of the way.