As more and more people use Ubuntu there is one obvious thing that is missing: Movies! Installing Dvd-codecs although easier these days is still not an ideal solution in a free software ecosystem. Moreover, Blu-ray the next (and last) physical format is very poorly supported on Ubuntu. So whats the solution? Streaming although great when you have connection to Internet, loses all value when you pull the plug. My idea is Ubuntu One TV, a service that offers high quality streams (HD) and lower quality downloads for your Ubuntu One account.
Why HD steams but no HD downloads?
A few reasons-
Size: HD videos are several times larger than standard def. They would take large amounts of time to sync between accounts and waste a lot of user's One storage.
Playback-ability: HD videos take more video processing power compared to standard def video. Thus, the download would be unplayable on older/lower-end netbooks and smartphones.
Appeasing the studios: Giving up the local HD copy of a video is a win for the studios because not only would the user have to come back for the HD content (instead of just pirating it). This would (hopefully) allow the SD content to be bought without any DRM.
Ads and promotions: Keeping users coming back to a video stream adds some options. For example the ability to run non-intrusive ads (banner ads on a site) <-- as with my streaming music idea keep the ads relevant to whats going on: ie. new releases available on the service. Moreover, free videos (ie.some back stage footage, "first 10 mins" etc.) could be offered at launch or at other times during the lifecycle of a movie.
Steam sales for movies?: Alright this might take some doing but smaller Indy film makers "might" agree to deeply discount their movies as part of a promotion. A key here is like Steam to promote good quality with the full force of available resources.
Challenges, Challenges, Challenges.
Ok this idea is well beyond the scope of reality for at least the next year:
-Ubuntu and Canonical (as far as I know) do not have the relationships in place with studios or video streaming/downloading businesses
-There is no one doing this! It is difficult to invest (and this would take a large investment) in a unproven business model.
-Studios won't do it. Giving up even standard def streams in a easily sharable/non-DRM format... well thats plain loony according to studios. At least for now.
-Codec? Obviously the video stream would HAVE TO be very high quality and free. Although I love OGG it is not up to the task of HD (or 4k- hey one can dream) video streams. For the streams: VP8 is the best option. So one would have to wait for Google to release it. On the positive side OGG could be used (if it's processing requirements are less than VP8, as I expect) for the SD content.
-SD is it low enough? For studios and downloads/syncing 480p might be too high quality. The simple and I believe acceptable solution would be to offer the downloads in "youtube res" or 360p (or offer the choice between the two).
-Bandwidth! HD (1080p) take plenty of bandwidth although this is increasingly diminishing as problem... it will take some time for most people to be able to stream a 1080p movie with no pauses.
Waiting for buffering would really kill the experience. Moreover, every stream of the movie would be consuming bandwidth on Canonical's side.
-Piracy of the HD stream? I am not an expert in this (and many studio reps probably aren't either) but wouldn't it be easy to steal the HD stream if we are using a open codec + a open source software stack. Is there a way to prevent this?
-Pricing? Obviously there would be a temptation by studios to charge more per movie (hey look at all that additional value). Thus, might make the service less competitive in the marketplace. A solution to this might be to simply subsidize that price hike by making it a "subscribers only" service or offer a "movie-a-holic" add-on service that gives the user access to special features (like HD downloads) for a subscription fee. The hope is that studios charge the same amount of money or less for service.
Please leave a post if you have any additional ideas, even if they sound stupid/crazy. Again this is a difficult idea to implement with lots of expertise, infrastructure and technologies that need implementing. I don't expect it soon (or ever) but I thought it was neat and I would share.