Watching Brando at 30,000 Feet

You're finally on that plane to Tahiti, and you decide to check what's on for the in-flight movie. Oh-oh, they're running Porky's: Part 12, and you can barely even see the screen 23 rows ahead of you. Then you find the headphones---the type with two plastic tubes coming out of the armrest. Time to whip out some of your own DVDs, sit back with some high-quality headphones, and watch a couple of film versions of Mutiny On The Bounty---the Brando and Gibson varieties.

DVD-ROM players have been showing up in portable computers lately, and some, like the recently announced Apple PowerBook G3 models with DVD-Video Kit, are equipped to play movies---and their Dolby Digital soundtracks---directly on the screen or an external monitor (via S-video out).

"This new DVD-Video Kit lets us offer PowerBook G3 users cool new software that enables them to view the latest movies wherever they are," says Phil Schiller, vice president of worldwide product marketing for Apple. "DVD is the next leap in storage and multimedia technology. The huge storage capacity of the DVD format, combined with the high-performance PowerBook G3, will provide customers with an incredibly rich viewing experience."

Apple's DVD-Video Kit includes the PowerBook DVD-ROM, DVD-Video PC Card, and Apple DVD Player software. The player is capable of reading CD-ROM, CD-R, CD-i, PhotoCD, and audio CDs as well as DVD-ROM discs, and the DVD-Video PC Card provides MPEG-2 decoding to deliver full-screen, 30 fps playback in addition to Dolby Digital audio. The Apple DVD Player software, which is based on Apple's QuickTime 3 technology, provides access to basic functions like start, stop, and play in addition to advanced features such as progressive slow motion, step frame, language preferences, subtitles, and multiple-angle viewing. Customers access features with a unique orb-shaped onscreen controller, menu commands, or keyboard shortcuts.

In a move echoing a Hewlett-Packard announcement last week, Apple has worked out a deal with NetFlix and DVD Empire, two Internet-based vendors of DVD titles. NetFlix and DVD Empire will provide special limited-time offers to new PowerBook DVD-Video Kit owners for discounted purchases and free rentals.

"Apple has long been focused on giving its customers the ultimate machine for multimedia," says Marc B. Randolph, president and CEO of NetFlix. "We are excited that Apple recognizes the value of the electronic-rental business model in making entertainment more accessible. We believe this partnership will make that customer experience even richer by ensuring that every Macintosh owner is only a mouse-click away from every DVD movie, to buy or to rent, on the Internet."

The PowerBook DVD-Video Kit requires a PowerBook G3-series system with a large 13.3" or 14.1" TFT display, and it can be added for $499. But don't forget to bring extra batteries.