There's talk that Apple is gearing up to provide streaming video for iTunes users with a web-enabled device.
The AppleInsider is reporting that Apple will implement a streaming video service into iTunes 8, allowing users to stream purchased video content - mainly movies and TV shows - from the company servers directly to portable devices without the need for local storage. Called iTunes Replay, the AppleInsider was rather unsure whether consumers would be charged for the service, however it stated that Apple would serve as a media center alternative, addressing complaints from users who do not want to store the files on the hard drive or media disks.
Apple's iTunes Replay service could mark the company's passive attempt to dethrone Netflix and its streaming rental service. Although the latter company offers the streaming service free for paying subscribers, it's possible that Apple may present a similar service that would enable consumers to pay a monthly fee for unlimited movie and television streaming without the need of ownership. Netflix has already gained a huge stake in the online rental business, offering streaming services to both PC owners and Xbox 360 console owners. A Netflix application is also included in many Internet-ready DTVs and Blu-ray players.
But streaming video content does have its drawbacks. As the AppleInsider points out, users will need to maintain high quality bandwidth throughout playback, else they will face interruption while the stream buffers into memory. However, owners of Apple TV would benefit from iTunes Replay in many ways, removing the need to sync and copy files from the PC. iPhone and iPod Touch owners would no longer suffer storage limitations, now able to watch video content streamed through the QuickTime application.
In light of the news, Apple may be building bridges with content delivery networks in order to provide the necessary bandwidth for not only iTunes Reply, but for other iTunes content spanning downloadable applications, music, and media. Although Apple used Akamai Technologies to carry some of the bandwidth baggage, last month CDN industry watcher Dan Rayburn reported that Limelight Networks is also helping out with the load. He points out that the llnw.net domain is starting to show up for some of Apple's downloads, indicating that the company is looking to rely less on just one CDN.
"I don't know Apple's traffic volume, but considering how many iPods and iPhones they keep selling, you have to imagine their traffic has some crazy growth each quarter and moving to a dual-vendor strategy should help keep Apple's services from having future performance issues," he said. "We already know that no CDN has unlimited capacity and can only handle so much traffic at any given time and if you are Apple, using more than one CDN is just smart business."
Currently iTunes 8 offers high quality, DRM-free music, however consumers recently discovered that purchased media comes with the user's personal information embedded into the file. But if Apple does indeed launch the iTunes Replay service, end-users will not only be DRM free in regards to sync nightmares, but will have the freedom to watch HD video content at any time, and anywhere there's a broadband connection.