Hollywood Wishes Upon a Star Studio bosses are desperately hoping that Apple's scene-stealing CEO, Steve Jobs, will do for movies what he's already done for music. He swears he won't, but ...
By Geoff Keighley

(Business 2.0) – Steve Jobs would seem to be the Hollywood savior from central casting. Apple's iPod and iTunes Music Store have been hailed as the salvation of the recording industry, which was the first to face the potentially devastating piracy wave that looms for movies. Jobs is Hollywood's kind of guy: a techno-superstar, not to mention head of a fabulously successful studio, Pixar. With the exception of Disney's Michael Eisner, whom Jobs recently dumped as Pixar's partner, studio executives universally respect Jobs as a business and creative visionary. There is an almost desperate yearning among them to have Jobs ride to their rescue--and a common belief among them that, eventually, he'll have to.

But Jobs has spent a lifetime defying conventional wisdom. And, though he declines to discuss Hollywood plans, he makes a strong case for why the video equivalent of the iPod won't fly. The first problem, he has repeatedly said, is quality: Plug headphones into an iPod and you experience the bone-rattling crunch of Led Zeppelin as if you were in the front row. But a 3-inch handheld screen can never reproduce the emotional impact of seeing a movie in the theater, or even on TV. Second, Jobs argues, there are already many ways to see movies, from theater to DVD to cable; there isn't pent-up demand for a new way to buy films. Beyond that, people want to own their favorite songs so they can hear them over and over again; they don't have the same compulsion to own movies. In short, Jobs says, a handheld video player--like Microsoft's Portable Media Center, for example--will never be the phenomenon that the iPod has become.

That hasn't stopped Hollywood from imagining a different plot arc. In fact, the buzz around town is that Apple has already quietly shown an iPod-like video prototype to some studio execs. There's also speculation that Apple might add a video-out jack to future iPods, allowing users to watch video by connecting an iPod to a TV or portable LCD screen. Initially, some speculate, Apple may focus on letting users view digital pictures, home movies, or even music videos. But, the thinking goes, copyrighted Hollywood content may not be far behind. Imagine, for instance, an "iTube" store where you could download last week's Sopranos episode for $1.99.

All of this may be wishful thinking on Hollywood's part. "The studios are coming to Apple more than Apple is going to them," says Richard Doherty, head of Envisioneering, a computer industry consulting firm. Moreover, Apple might face technical hurdles: Microsoft and others say its antipiracy technology isn't ready for its close-up. But Apple is working on improved security systems, and in any case, technology can always be bought or licensed; what takes longer to develop are relationships and trust. That's one edge Apple likely will always have in Hollywood--and it can't hurt that, with Pixar looking for new post-Disney partners, Jobs is more popular than ever in Tinsel Town. Right now, Hollywood may only be dreaming that he'll save them--but this is a place that exists to turn fantasy into reality. -- GEOFF KEIGHLEY