The iPad is an ironic little bugger. If you download most of your video content illegally, you’ll have trouble playing it back (at least if it’s HD). Other tablets can do this with no problem, even the cheaper ones from Archos (which are technically media players). If you prefer to do it the legal way however, iTunes is so far ahead of everyone else in providing a media store that there is no contest. Warner Brothers just gave the latter group yet another reason to choose the iPad (for now) by releasing The Dark Knight and Inception as apps. That’s right, movies as apps. The apps are free, but you pay through in-app purchases depending on whether you want a streaming version ($10) or a download version ($12). This might seem like a very peculiar thing to do, but it actually makes a lot of sense.
By releasing movies as apps, you can make the movie more like a DVD than a single video file. These movies have extras just like you’d find on a DVD, and also some interactive features like trivia and Twitter/Facebook streams. Scene selection and subtitles are things that you can technically get with simple video files too, but with the app system it’s a lot more like using a DVD (hopefully without 20 minutes of unskippable FBI warnings).
The concept also makes sense if anyone were to release TV episodes that way. One app that had in-app purchases for existing episodes as well as subscription plans for upcoming ones, schedules, discussion, etc. Between normal in-app purchases and subscriptions the system could work very well. In fact, someone has already attempted something similar, though without the episode purchase feature. For this to really be an option though they would have to be careful about DRM- people should be able to watch what they buy anywhere, and prices should be reasonable. The latter would require a rental service in this case, as $10 is a bit steep. But let’s not get ahead of ourself, so far only two movies are available, but this is a concept I’m really excited about if they can expand on it without making it all unappealing.