Friday, September 08, 2006

Amazon Unbox makes my day

Okay, pretend this is Week 3 of the 23 Things project. Pretend also that this is the technology-related post for that week. I'm really excited about Amazon's launch of Amazon Unbox, a new movie and television program download service from the Internet giant.

And I mean really excited. For financial reasons I have recently had my digital cable disconnected; I loved my digital cable. Specifically, I loved a handful of digital cable channels: History International and BBC America primarily. Not every show is included in Amazon Unbox, of course, but some of my favorites are, like Little Britain and Coupling from BBC. From the History Channel there's History's Mysteries. HGTV's offerings include ReZONED, a quirky little show about former banks, libraries, stores, factories, churches, barns, you name it, repurposed and remodeled as homes. The service also duplicates many of the major network offerings already available at iTunes. As with iTunes, all episodes are $1.99 each, and some series are also sold as complete seasons.

Notably missing from the line-up are a few personal favorites: A&E's Intervention, BBC's Life on Mars and Murder City, and the Travel Channel's Most Haunted.

Movies already available include Brokeback Mountain, V for Vendetta and Failure to Launch. Top sellers so far include The Matrix, Syriana and (oddly) several Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen movies. Movie prices vary, but none seem to be over $15.

The biggest problem I foresee is if my hard drive can hold everything I'll want to watch. And if I can afford it all.

Amazon Unbox is a stand-alone video player that requires Windows XP SP2; it isn't available for Macs and sadly the videos won't play on an iPod. You'll also need a high-speed Internet connection and plenty of time to wait for the download to finish. (A one-hour show can take up to 3 hours and 40 minutes to download.) If the shows are "rented," you have 30 days in which to watch them; once you start watching the video, you must finish it within 24 hours.
(Apparently shows can be purchased as well.)

The launch of Amazon Unbox comes at a time when rumors of movie downloads coming soon from iTunes are rampant. Apple has a press conference scheduled for Sept. 12, and many speculate that movie downloads will be among the products announced at that event. An iTunes service will have a huge market advantage -- about 1 million videos (film shorts, television programs and music videos) are already sold every week from iTunes.

For more about Amazon Unbox, see this news article at Yahoo! News.

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