Digiboo lets airport travelers buy or rent movies on flash drives

UPDATE: August 10, 2012 – Digiboo is introducing a wireless download feature from their kiosks, eliminating the need for the flash drive transfer. As of this writing, kiosks are in the Minneapolis/St Paul, Seattle and Portland airports.

Recently, for maybe the third or fourth time since they cured polio, I received an email marketing blast that actually fell within the easily identifiable realm of interests here at Killing Batteries headquarters. Except it was forwarded to me by my travel writing coconspirator Frank Bures, not a PR shop. Ah, well. Keep trying, people. (Except for the PRs that keep pitching me family travel stories. You guys need to be publicly flogged.)

In 2003, when I quit my job, sold everything and took off for over four years of global vagabonding, I brought with me a densely packed DVD case. Even with it being bulky, heavy and delicate I never regretted it for a second. Those movies filled many idle hours on planes, trains and lonely hotel rooms in deserted towns during low season.

Well, now movie-loving, frequent and long haul travelers have a far more elegant solution. Digiboo allows flash drive-armed travelers to spontaneously buy or rent movies and it’s being launched this week exclusively at the award-winning Minneapolis/St Paul International Airport.

Now the really important thing here is IN YOUR FACE EVERY OTHER AIRPORT!!

That said, being that MSP is a hub for an airline that rhymes with ‘Smelta’ and Smelta has historically been an industry leader in leaving people stranded in strange cities, blaming ATC, leaving them with no recourse and no way to retrieve their luggage at 11pm, then locking the doors and going home, I felt it was prudent to check out this boredom-deterrent, movie download thingie as soon as possible. For the people.

Currently there are 11 Digiboo movie download kiosks peppered around MSP, loaded with (at the time of writing) 700 movies, including recent films such as “Bad Teacher,” “Captain America” and “Hugo.” Rentals are $3.99 (new) or $2.99 (catalog) and can be viewed within 30 days of download. The caveat is that one only has 48 hours to watch the movie once the movie has been opened, though the movie can be viewed as many times as one likes in that 48 hour period before the rental license expires. Purchased movies cost $14.99. Rentals can be viewed on only one device at a time, while purchased movies can be watched on up to five devices. New movies are added to the kiosk every week as titles become available.

Utterly intrigued, I all but ran to a nearby hotel earlier today, where Digiboo executives were camped out, for a hands-on test.

The touchscreen kiosks are admirably intuitive. You can search for movies by genre, pull up a list of recent releases, or type in a movie title (or even actor name) into the search field. Once you’ve selected your film, you swipe a credit card, which both sets up payment and registers your Digiboo account without having to type a single character. Your film then zaps out onto your flash drive, a process that, in my case (using a USB 3.0 device) took about 30 seconds. That’s it!

The movie files range in size from 1.5 to 2.1 gigs. If you don’t have that much space available on your flash drive, a USB external hard drive can alternatively be plugged into the kiosk.

But wait! If this is your first time using Digiboo, you’re not quite done. You need to register your laptop before you can view your movie. As frequent MSP travelers know, as wonderful as MSP is in virtually every other way, they criminally still do not have free wi-fi. Until they join all the other wi-fi forward-thinking airports of the world, say San Salvador or Bucharest, Digiboo has a solution.

If you think ahead, you can register your laptop at home, right now in fact, using the Digiboo website. But if you haven’t done this step, here’s the beautiful thing, each Digiboo kiosk is also a wi-fi hotspot. You can’t surf the web, but you can register and also install the Digiboo player app on your laptop without hunting for a wi-fi hotspot or paying for an airport wi-fi subscription. Simply connect to the Digiboo wi-fi hub and zip-zop your laptop is registered. You don’t even need to open a browser.

Plug the flash drive into your laptop and double click the Digiboo player setup exe file. Again, this is a first-time-only task that requires a wi-fi connection, so don’t run to your departure gate until you’ve completed this step using the Digiboo wi-fi hotspot. Even on my foot-dragging netbook, the install only took about 2-3 minutes. Now you’re ready to watch your movie, in my case, The Dark Knight.

Digiboo has only landed the licensing rights to standard-definition movies (so far), but being that I typically travel with my 10” screen netbook these days, I doubt I’ll miss those lost lines of resolution.

Following the initial installation at Minneapolis/St Paul airport, Digiboo will install kiosks in the Seattle and Portland airports in the next few weeks. Further expansion is expected this summer.

Now, is Digiboo a desperately needed airport/airplane entertainment solution or a flash-in-the-pan, geek-bait novelty?

It is, albeit near the very bottom of the list of First World Problems, a bit tedious to be shuffling a flash drive between a kiosk and a laptop for 5-10 minutes just to load and watch a movie. And one analyst rightly points out that consumers are embracing streaming video with breathtaking speed, ostensibly rendering the Digiboo service obsolete before it even gets started. However, any frequent traveler will recognize that massive demand still potentially exists within the captive, in-transit demographic who don’t want to suffer through streaming movies via airplane wi-fi, not to mention the inaccessibility of streaming options like Netflix and Hulu when one is outside of the US. (Though there are work-arounds for truly dedicated, savvy geeks.)

The only reason I’m writing about Digiboo is that I believe I’ll be using this service lavishly from here on out. With my frequent, long trips abroad and utter loathing of paying for hotel wi-fi under any circumstances, having movies sitting on my hard drive has been and continues to be the ideal solution. Until someone invents something better.

For the moment, Digiboo movies will only play on Windows devices. Plans to expand to the Mac and Android OSs are in process.

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