I’ve always been hopeful about Internet video downloads even though the available services always seem to leave quite a bit to be desired. Gizmodo’s Charlie White summarizes the problems nicely in Top 10 Reasons Why Movie Downloads Suck, but I’d like to call out a couple of them:
3. No computer in the TV room: Most people don’t have a computer near the TV, and getting a downloaded movie from one to the other is awkward at best.
10. Too complicated: Finally, all of that knowledge and computer know-how needed for downloading movies is simply nonexistent in the skill sets of the average movie viewer. They’re just not willing to go through the learning curve to get the digital data from the PC to the TV screen when they can effortlessly pop in a DVD.
These aren’t problems for a “power user,” but they surely are impediments for the casual consumer. That’s why I was interested to see the alliance announced last week between Amazon’s Unbox movie download service and TiVo, the digital video recorder makers, to provide Unbox downloads automatically and directly to the TiVo DVR. The details of the announcement are here, but the FAQ may be more illuminating.
In a nutshell, if you are the owner of a broadband connected TiVo Series2 or Series3 DVR, you can register the unit with Amazon from your PC and whenever you purchase any video at Amazon Unbox (again from your PC) you can specify that it be delivered to your TiVo. If you delete it from the TiVo, it can be downloaded again free from your Amazon Media Library.
It’s not perfect because you can’t order the downloads from the TiVo, but it neatly gets around the two problems listed above. Of course, there are still more of the “10 Reasons” to overcome, but at least it’s a start. Amazon’s Unbox had a very shaky launch, but presuming that they have ironed out the bugs, the only downside that I see is that broadband connected TiVo Series2 and Series3 boxes aren’t particularly common – TiVo estimates that there only are 1.5 million potential candidates. However, if you happen to own one it would be worthwhile to head over to Unbox and at least kick the tires when this rolls out later this year.
Update – March 7, 2007: The Amazon Unbox TiVo service is now live.