Amazon Ponders The Future of Unbox

Dave Zatz —  March 3, 2008 — 15 Comments

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Netflix isn’t the only online video service quizzing customers… Amazon’s also looking for input – to presumably guide future Unbox offerings, or perhaps to validate their existing (HD) intentions. Of course, it’s the theoretical scenarios that seem to get folks into a frenzy. So, without further ado:

Free Video Streaming with ads – The ability to watch movies and TV shows online within an Internet browser. Watching videos would not cost anything but would include advertisements.

Burn to DVD – The ability to burn purchased movies and TV show downloads to a DVD for playback on a DVD player. To burn videos to a DVD you would need to have access to a special DVD burner on your PC, and use a special type of DVD.

DVD & Instant Stream – The ability to purchase a DVD from Amazon.com and receive a streamed video of the same title you could instantly playback while you wait for your DVD to arrive. This would be included in the DVD price.

High-Definition Videos – The ability to purchase and watch High-Definition (HD) movies and TV shows. *

DVD & Digital Copy – The ability to purchase a DVD from Amazon.com and, for a small additional fee, get a permanent digital copy in Your Media Library.

Hit Movie Subscription Service – The ability to watch a defined number of videos per month for a flat monthly fee, including top Hollywood titles. Not all movies would be available for viewing; however, the selection would be comparable to most pay movie channels (i.e. HBO, Showtime, Starz, etc). *

Video Extras – The ability to select and watch video “extrasâ€? (i.e. DVD extras) when purchasing or renting a movie.

Paid Video Streaming without ads – The ability to immediately watch your purchased Unbox movies and TV shows on your PC within an Internet browser without commercials, instead of having to download them to your PC or TiVo.

Independent Film Subscription Service – The ability to watch a defined number of independent films per month for a flat monthly fee.

Browse your Unbox media library on your TiVo – The ability to access all of your purchased Unbox videos on the TiVo user interface. *

My preferences are itemized in the screengrab below (and starred above). However, both the Xbox 360 and Vudu have proven that I don’t neccessarily need true HD pixel counts for good looking content – but I do need a more appropriate aspect ratio and better encoding than Amazon Unbox is currently feeding my TiVo and 16:9 HDTV. Interestingly, Mac support wasn’t explicitly offered as an improvement… Would that fall under web browser playback or is it entirely off their radar?

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Thanks to BlackBetty of the TiVo Community for the heads up and survey access!

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15 responses to Amazon Ponders The Future of Unbox

  1. Michael Portuesi March 3, 2008 at 10:20 am

    Dave,

    My preferences would be the same as yours, with the addition of Mac-specific playback.

    I have to ask what sense the “Hit Movie Subscription Service” makes. Why would I get this, rather than simply subscribe to HBO or Showtime? Perhaps if Amazon’s fee were cheaper, but that’s about all I can think of.

  2. Michael Portuesi March 3, 2008 at 10:22 am

    Plus, if I subscribe to HBO/Showtime, I can TiVo anything that they air….there’s no “defined limit”. Amazon will have to think a bit more to make the “Hit Movie” idea fly.

  3. 1. Give us HD(or at least 16×9) to the TIVO! Key point is to the Tivo because from what I heard earlier, they were only talking about doing HD to the PC which is crap if you ask me. No one wants HD to the PC!!

    2. I love the idea of Browsing your Unbox media library on your TiVo

    3. Give us the DVD & Digital Copy option for HD files AND SD files and allow it to work with downloads to the Tivo.

    Give us some updates Amazon! I love unbox how it is but its so close to being amazing, Make the small changes and get everyone hooked.

  4. I noticed they mention free w/ ads, but didn’t mention a lower price point for ad free downloads. When Unbox first arrived I rented one or two movies a week off the 99 cent list. But now you can’t find anything decent for less than $2.99. I can’t justify that much per movie when I have a 3-at-a-time NetFlix account.

    Now, I could be lured by a combination of true HD quality on all new releases and a subscription service that had a very good selection of new and old titles. If that were true I might even drop NetFlix, but I’m guessing they are a LONG way from delivering on what I need.

    And of course what a really want is for NetFlix and TiVo to get back together and work out delivery of the NetFlix movies directly to my TiVo box!

  5. My brother’s friend is one of the heads of Unbox. Last time I talked to my brother, he was quizzing me about my Unbox experience. He didn’t think anyone used it. I (or my wife) uses it for watching her romantic comedies on our Series 2 Tivo in our bedroom.

    The main thing I told him to pass on to his friend is make Unbox at least anamorphic if not HD on the Tivo.

  6. Tell your brother’s friend to drop me a line (davezatz@yahoo.com) if he wants to talk to and/or solicit feedback from the blogosphere.

  7. Amazon should just buy Netflix. The synergies wold be great.

  8. I’ve rented plenty of movies from Unbox onto my Tivo and I love it. But I’m not willing to pay more than 99 cents to rent a movie that doesn’t warrant being purchased.

    I would be all up on an all-you-can-eat monthly subscription like white on rice.

  9. 16:9 HD (5Mbps h.264 at least 720p) to the Tivo.

    If my unbox buys were accessible either on the Tivo or the laptop depending where I was, that would be cool, but otherwise I don’t care about the laptop side. I won’t pay for something I can only watch on the laptop unless its a cheap rental.

    Honestly, releasing titles simultaneously with DVD release, releasing more titles, are probably the most important thing.

    Also, the current interface still sucks. Keep working on it. The interface on the PC isn’t very good, and the one on the Tivo is really sad.

    How about listing the episodes of a TV Series in the order they’re supposed to be watched, and including the Season/Episode number in the title or description. Battlestar for example has several mistakes in the episode order on the Tivo anyway…

    Speed up how quickly unbox downloads to the Tivo start.

    Let me transfer unbox Tivo purchases from one Tivo to another in the same house, or at least let me stream it.

  10. I use Unbox all the time, but a little peeved with a few things. I think Unbox needs to tend the weeds before they plant their revenue garden.

    1) Browsing for movies is really a pain. You can’t search movies from the viewer. Only select material is listed. – Point here being, if you can’t find it easily, it’s hard to buy.

    2) No iPod support – Number one portiable player and you don’t have the option to save in a different format?

    3) Client always starts during startup – Regardless of the settings you choose in the preferances. – This made me think bad programming and I was about to delete the player off of my PC.

  11. iPod support is an interesting dilemma… Apple has been reluctant to license their DRM and I seriously doubt they’d offer it to a competitor (until a court makes them do so). And we’re not going to see very much DRM-free content in the video space… I’m an iPhone owner and I agree it would be nice, though!

  12. I do use Unbox for TiVo, but I am part of Adam Smith’s invisible hand. $4 for a 24 hour movie-watching period (and no special features) compared to around $4 for 9-14 days of watching. There’s no comparison–unbox loses. (though I’ve done plenty of 99cents purchases)

    If there was one thing I’d fix, it’s the 24 hour period.

    If anyone knows how to take this survey, I’d love to participate. Got a URL?

  13. I find it amusing how many people complain about the 24-hr rental period. Occasionally, I’m impacted by both the 24-hr and 30-day periods but this is exactly the same model as PPV on cable-boxes. Based on the enormous popularity of this model, why would they change? I’ve noticed recently that some of the purchase prices on the films has dropped. When you purchase, you do not have the 24-hr or 30-day restrictions (usually).

    Anyway, I’m anxiously awaiting near-HD content from Amazon but I would settle for 16:9. I do miss close captioning as well at times. Was that covered by the survey?

  14. Unbox SUCKS! I “bought” a video from them, but can’t even watch the video that I “OWN” on my own video player! That is a total infringement on my fair use rights! I deleted the software and kept the copy protected video that I “OWN” so I can figure out a way to RIP it from it’s protection and watch it where and when I want to watch it. I have learned my lesson, and will NEVER buy from this rip-off service again!

  15. I agree the MS DRM situation isn’t great – too cumbersome, inconsistent, etc. But… did you call Amazon? Betcha, they’d resolve this for you.

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