Movies via USB Drive? Digiboo’s Download Kiosks Land in Seattle

3/23/12Follow @curtwoodward

We’re suddenly living in the age of the digital kiosk. If cashing in your coins or renting DVDs wasn’t enough, there’s now apparently a fancy-cupcake dispenser and a computerized coffee machine that spits out decent java.

So it’s not much of a stretch for the people at Digiboo to think air travelers will want to get some last-minute entertainment at a little digital stand, too. The Santa Monica, CA-based startup has seeded its first large group of test machines at airports in Seattle, Portland, OR, and Minneapolis, betting that harried flyers will prefer to grab-and-go with digital movies.

The high-level concept is similar to Redbox, the Blockbuster-killing DVD-rental kiosks from Bellevue, WA-based Coinstar—insert a credit card, pick your flick from a monitor, get a movie. Digiboo doesn’t dispense discs, however. Instead, it transfers digital copies to USB drives, complete with copy-protection software and a custom version of Windows Media Player.

Are people really ready to learn a whole new way of buying and porting movies over to their personal machines? Digiboo marketing chief Blake Thomas says the market has shown to be pretty adaptable to changes in delivery technologies.

“The thing that we know about movie lovers is that they watch movies in pretty much any way they can,” he says. “For example, Netflix subscribers: a pretty high percentage of them still use Redbox, because it serves a certain purpose—the DVD’s not in their queue, the streaming selection is older films. People who are heavy users of Redbox also use online.”

Digiboo only works on Windows machines for now, although that’s probably as good a test bed as any for this concept. Microsoft’s OS still has the biggest market share in traditional portable computing, and you can probably guess that someone toting an Apple device will be more likely to use Apple’s iTunes system to just load up their preferred movies ahead of time.

For now, there’s a pretty big tradeoff in quality for the Digiboo system’s convenience. Digiboo’s David Rondan says USB 3.0 and even 2.0 devices can hold and transfer a movie just fine, but Digiboo’s catalog is only available in DVD quality (not high-definition) because the movie studios just aren’t licensing their HD assets for this kind of market yet.

That’ll probably change over time, but it’s hard to know exactly when—to the frustration of many digital entrepreneurs dealing with the old guard. Digiboo also sees the obvious room for expansion into other kinds of digital content, including TV shows, games, or e-books.

For now, the young company has enough work ahead of it trying to prove the concept with real consumers. Airports do seem like a good testing ground for this kind of idea, since all but the most uber-organized travelers are typically dashing around to collect a bunch of last-minute essentials before jumping into the security line.

Digiboo is backed by private investors and is about three and a half years old—another Great Recession survivor. It’s headed by veterans of the film industry, particularly from MGM’s home entertainment division.

Curt Woodward is a senior editor for Xconomy based in Boston. Email: cwoodward@xconomy.com Follow @curtwoodward

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