Walt Disney Studios movies will not be available to Vudu users on the iPad, even though movies from the other five major Hollywood studios -- 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures, Universal Pictures and Warner Bros. -- are. Disney movies are available on all other devices on users can access Vudu, including computers, Internet connected televisions and Blu-ray players.
Instead of creating a downloadable application, Vudu has designed a version of its website specially designed to work on the iPad that launched on Wednesday. That gives it full control over the experience without being vetted by iPad manufacturer Apple Inc. Perhaps more importantly, it also lets Vudu keep all the revenue when users rent or buy movies. For transactions done within applications on its devices, Apple takes a 30% cut.
Apple is led by Steve Jobs, who is also the largest individual shareholder of Walt Disney Co.
A Disney spokesperson declined to comment on the reasons why the studio's films are not available via Vudu on the iPad.
Vudu is the first major transactional video-on-demand service to launch on the iPad and compete directly with Apple's own iTunes Store. The selection of more than 20,000 movies and television episodes is similar to iTunes -- except for the Disney content.
Vudu General Manager Edward Lichty said he hopes that availability on the iPad will help increase his company's user base because accounts are connected across devices. People who purchase a movie on an Internet-connected TV can watch it later on an iPad, or vice-versa.
There are restrictions that put Vudu at a disadvantage compared with iTunes, however. Users can't download movies, meaning they can't watch when their iPad isn't connected to the Internet. In addition, its movies are only available in standard definition on the iPad, while iTunes lets people download them in high definition.
Although Vudu won't be an iPad app, it is giving users the ability to put an icon on the device that with one click goes directly to the Vudu website.
"It's not an app, but people will have a hard time telling the difference," Lichty said.
Vudu has taken a number of recent steps to expand its library and availability, including launching on the Wal-Mart.com website. Lichty said that the service's user base has tripled since the beginning of the year.
-- Ben Fritz
Photo: A mock-up of Vudu on the iPad. Credit: Vudu