Amazon launched their video store, Amazon Unbox, late yesterday. The intials reviews of the system are not quite so nice. Unbox had a few things working against it before the launch. As you may be aware Apple is ready to launch their own movie download service and the main difference between the 2 services boils down to price.
Amazon has an open ended pricing model that lets the studio decide what a given item is worth. No info is available on how much of this Amazon gets. Apple wants a fixed pricing system as is present with the iTunes Music Store. $14.99 for new releases and $9.99 for older titles. The only ones in on this fixed pricing seem to be Disney. A quick look around Unbox makes it apparent why. Many movies, not necessarily new movies, are priced well above $14.99 and some as high as $24.99. $24.99 for a DRM laden almost DVD quality version of a film?
I will say that a large percentage of the films on Unbox do fall within the pricing scheme that Apple proposed so why the studios balked it at is anybody’s guess. We do know that Apple is only taking $.50 out of each sale to cover basically all the expenses of running the store.
The second strike against Unbox is in the marketing double speak. After clicking a title that you would like to download and seeing the price you will see this text below it:
Price includes both a DVD-quality video to watch on your PC or TV, and a video file optimized for compatible portable video players.
The ordinary person might take that to mean that these DRM laden hacks will allow you to burn this movie to a standard DVD and pop it in your DVD player. Oh no. You honestly thought the movie studios would make it that easy? I dug a little deeper on the Unbox FAQ and found this:
Can I use Amazon Unbox with my TV?
Amazon Unbox only works when installed on a personal computer or Media Center PC. You can also transfer videos to an approved hand-held device using the Amazon Unbox. If you have the capability to connect your TV to a PC or hand-held device, you can watch videos purchased at the Amazon Unbox store on your television. Please refer to the documentation for your computer hardware for more information about your machine's capability to interface with a television.
In most cases, connecting your computer to your television is as simple as using an s-video connection. S-video is a standard 4-pin video connection available on most televisions and video cards. S-video only transfers the video image, so you will also need to connect the audio out port on your computer to external speakers or to a home stereo system. Some video cards also come with standard RCA adapters for video and audio and will allow you to connect your computer in the same way you would connect a VCR or video camera.
If you are using a Microsoft Media Center PC, detailed information is available on their Web page at: http://www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/mediacenter/default.mspx.
IF you can connect your PC to your TV then you can watch them on your TV. To me, there are going to be a ton of angry consumers that end up with $15 versions of movies that they can only watch at their computers. Not to mention that $15 will probably nab you the DVD at your local Wal-Mart or Best Buy.
Since I know someone will ask:
Can I make a DVD from my Amazon Unbox downloads?
You can store your downloaded files on a DVD or other removable computer storage device for the purpose of backup in the same format as the original files. However, any DVDs that you burn with Amazon Unbox files will not be readable by a DVD player. You can only view the files using Amazon Unbox installed on the computer that originally received the downloads..
They also make sure to touch on the issue of returns in their FAQ:
Can I return an Amazon Unbox video after I purchase it?
No. Amazon Unbox products are not returnable once purchased. If you experience technical problems installing the player or watching an Amazon Unbox video, we are happy to help you troubleshoot the problem.
You can also use the Contact Us buttons on the Amazon Unbox Video Help pages to contact customer service for technical support.
Needless to say, Unbox isn’t exactly easy to use, worth the money, or good for the consumer. I say buyer beware when looking into Unbox. Wait and see what Apple does and wait for Amazon to change things up when Apple starts selling tons of content.