Denki News

September 8, 2006

Amazon unveils “Unbox” video download service

Filed under: iPod & iTunes — icruise @ 7:35 am

I can’t help but wonder about the timing of this announcement, since Apple is expected to announce on September 12th that they are beginning downloads of feature films from the iTunes Music Store. But in any case, Amazon has started their new “Unbox” video download service which provides downloads of TV shows for $1.99 an episode and feature films for various prices. Unfortunately the downloads are not Mac or iPod compatible.

The details of the service are still a little hard to pin down (and I think this is where the iTMS got things so right — $0.99 for a song and $1.99 for a video is easy to remember) but it seems that they offer “rentals” of some videos. You have 30 days to start watching the video, but once you start it will expire in 24 hours. I can’t tell if the prices for these are all the same, but Office Space was $2.99 to rent. They also “sell” videos, which you can presumably keep forever. Office Space is $13.45 to buy, although many other movies are significantly more expensive.

One good thing about the service that I hope Apple will also do with their movie download service is that videos are “DVD quality.” I presume this means 720 x 480 resolution, which is a lot more reasonable than tiny 320 x 240 iPod video resolution.

However, when you consider that Amazon itself offers most of the movies in its download service on DVD (with higher quality, special features, and physical media) for LESS than it’s charging to download the digital versions, you really have to wonder if these people are serious about making downloads of video work. Although it’s interesting to see a major retailer like Amazon get behind a move like this, I don’t see much to distinguish their store from other ones already around. They’re still overpriced and still don’t work with the iPod, or even with Macs.

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