Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Amazon's Unbox versus iTunes

As noted in an earlier post, I just got back from Aguascalientes and on the plane there and back watched about 10 episodes of the first season of 24. I know I am a bit behind the times. I bought the season from iTunes. The movies on the plane sucked so I went to my iPod and watched all those episodes. The small screen is fine for personal viewing, with a good set of headphones (I use Shure Ec-3s) you have a great viewing experience. I also downloaded Free To Choose, Milton Friedman's classsic economics primer. So there is plenty of content. I had one concern on this trip about the video feature- that was battery life. Apple says in the new iPods battery life for video will improve significantly - but from this experience, I got about 4 episodes from a battery charge. Each episode is about 44 minutes - so on a long flight the video feature is ok but not great.

Yesterday when Apple announced that they were going to begin to release movies, I check it out. They have a small catalogue, for now. I expect, if the studios have a brain in their head, that will grow, just as the music and audiobook catalogues did. But I went to Amazon to look at their service which is called Unbox. Here is what I have found out so far. Amazon is the clear loser in the initial foray. First, Amazon requires you to be a Windows user. That leaves me out, although with my Probook I can actually run Windows. I don't want to run Windows. I know the problems. So Amazon has made a choice to use a protocol that I choose not to. Dumb decision.

But even if that were not true, Unbox is a turkey at this point. Amazon also requires you to use their player. Friends who have used it say it is buggy and quirky as compared to the iTunes player which is simple and versatile. The iTunes uses a pretty standard interface that is cross platform compatible. Then there is the question of how you can use the movie once you have downloaded it. iTunes has a couple of alternatives, unBox says watch it on your computer.

Amazon may have gotten hard copies right - their bookstore is pretty good. But their understanding of how consumers want digital content is second rate.

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