Friday, August 10, 2007

Marc Cuban vs. Steve Jobs: Who ya Got?

The problem with my love of sports and shows like ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption and Around the Horn is love of creating “the contest”. Your team vs. my team, with the ensuing smack talk (your team sucks, my team rules!). I’m 45, and it never gets old for me. And I’m OK with this because sports is one of the few places this should happen. I don’t think it’s good that this same emotional nature, including all the smack-talk seems to drive the political arena as well.

When it comes to Mark Cuban and Steve Jobs, my answer is: BOTH. I pick both. If I could only pick one, sorry Cubes, I gotta go with Jobs but, dude, he invented the iPhone, maybe you’ve heard of it!? (indeed, I am lamenting the outing of Fake Steve Jobs!) I use my iPod/iPhone much more than I watch any HDTV, HDNet or otherwise. But I don’t have to pick just one here, so I pick both. They both announced some new products this week.

Apple announced its new line of computers including a sweet 24” iMac. I am not historically a user of Apple computers, but I have been leaning towards buying one when the new Apple Store opens up on Chestnut Street about 5 blocks from where I live in San Francisco. It’s just an elegant machine and all the issues I had with the Mac vs. PC debate years ago are no longer issues for me.

The only ding against the iMac I have at all is that there aren’t more options and it’s not very customizable. It apparently doesn’t come with a high end video card and that’s disappointing. If you want an iMac with a high end video card, too freaking bad: you can’t have one. You have to buy a Mac Pro, and that’s way more computer (for way more money) than I need (or need to spend). I like the elegance of the all-in-one iMac, but I am big into video applications on my computer and am disappointed there aren’t more options.

Mark Cuban recently announced Ultra HD Video on Demand, which, according to a write-up in Variety:

Cuban is offering it to DirecTV, Time Warner Cable, Charter, Verizon and other cable-network distributors as a snob-appeal add-on to Cuban-financed and -distributed films that show up, for free, on his 24/7 HDNet Movies on the same day the pics open in theaters.

A shout out to Variety write John Dempsey because the phrase “a snob appeal add-on” will forever be etched in my vernacular! I have not been in love with the movie theaters and their $10 ticket prices for some time. Ultra HD aims to bring you theatrical releases sometimes even weeks before their theatrical releases at a retail price of $12.95-$19.95 depending on the movie.

I find this pricing extremely reasonable and I wonder years from now if these types of services won’t pummel the movie houses. Sure, for one person it’s more expensive, but add a second person in your living room and it’s either cheaper or competitive. If there are four people in your living room, it’s a fantastic deal, especially when you factor in the “you got to see it first!” aspect. There’s definitely something to be said for snob appeal add-ons. I hope the studios like this model and that it takes off rapidly.

Cuban is ahead of Jobs on this front, but those of you who have read any of my screeds on Apple’s Four Steps to Total World Domination know that I believe getting stuff from iTunes on to your big screen is a part of that plan. If that’s true, ultimately Steve Jobs and Apple will be offering the same type of thing as Ultra HD.

Over the long haul, unless Cuban somehow beats Jobs to the punch with some easy way of getting that UltraHD movie onto my iPhone/iPod, I think Jobs will win this contest. But it’s not clear to me yet whether several years from now when Apple TV is no longer a “hobby” whether Apple will do deals directly with the studios or just cut a deals with offerings like Cubans. If I have to guess, I am guessing Apple will cut the deals directly with the studios itself, but my guessing is often wrong.

Update 10:26 PDT: I just saw this poll on the Motley Fool and was a little sad because I don't need to buy any of them, but things are looking good for Cuban if this sentiment can be extrapolated to the rest of the world:

Which item do you need to buy right now?
Plasma screen, high definition TV
(6296 votes - 40%)
(3569 votes - 23%)
Washing machine
(1875 votes - 12%)
(1875 votes - 12%)
Air conditioning
(1992 votes - 13%)


Angela Penny said...

maybe the Motley Fool people already bought their iPhone that's why they don't need to buy another one.

Mark Cuban is a film producer? OMG.

Robert Seidman said...

He is indeed. With lots of big name stars/directors in his upcoming movies according to IMDB: