I mentioned Amazon’s planned video streaming service earlier this morning in my post about YouTube on TiVo, and now I see that, coincidentally, Amazon is releasing it to “a limited number of invited Amazon.com customers” starting today, according to The New York Times.
The new streaming service will apparently be called Amazon Video on Demand, and it will be distinct from Amazon Unbox, Amazon’s purchase and rental download service. The Times reports Amazon will have 40,000 titles available for instant streaming. I don’t see the new service as a replacement for Amazon Unbox, but rather a compliment. After all, you will need an active Internet connection to stream video on the new service. Unbox allows you to download video to watch later, off-line – such as on your laptop while on a plane, or on a PMP while traveling. And it is a fairly open secret that Amazon intends to offer HD content through Unbox, and true HD content does not lend itself to streaming on today’s networks. Streaming vs. downloads vs. physical media (DVD/BD) really lay along a convenience vs. quality curve, as a generalization. Streaming is instant gratification, but the lowest quality. Downloads take longer, but will generally offer higher bit rates and hence higher quality. And physical media, in the form of DVD, offers yet higher bit rates. As well as extras, often times audio formats not found on downloads or streams (5.1 Dolby Digital or DTS), additional languages, subtitles, etc. But with the inconvenience of a wait to receive the media. And Blu-ray is at the end of the scale with the highest bit rates, full 1080p HD, often 7.1 lossless audio, etc. All of these options compliment each other and will appeal to different users, or under different circumstances to the same user. (I myself buy a number of Blu-ray discs and love the quality. I also still buy some DVDs, though less now with BD. But I also use Amazon Unbox through my TiVo to check out movies I don’t have as strong an interest in, or impulse rentals due to sales, etc.)
Currently, aside from a PC, Amazon has a deal with Sony to make the streaming content available via Sony Bravia HDTVs. Today that requires the Sony Bravia Internet Video link, which is a $300 add-on. But in the future Sony is expected to build the Internet connectivity directly into new models in the Bravia line. Amazon says they’ll pursue relationships with other TV and Internet device vendors. Which, of course, begs the obvious question – what about their current flagship CE partner, TiVo?
While TiVo isn’t mentioned in the article, I really have to believe this is in the works. TiVo releases H.264 and video streaming support, and they just happen to do so on the same day Amazon makes their streaming service available to the first users? TiVo and Amazon already have a relationship with Unbox, an apparently very successful one, so you know they had to discuss the streaming service early on. With the infrastructure in place with 9.4, TiVo could throw the switch at any time just by updating the HME application that is used for all of the broadband video options. No further software update would be required in the field. I think it is a safe bet that we’ll see Amazon Video on Demand on the Series3 & TiVo HD in the future, perhaps the near future.
Picked up via EngadgetHD.
UPDATE: I went looking around Amazon to see if there was any information on the streaming trial, and on the Amazon Unbox page there was a link in the upper right to sign up for the beta. It says space is limited, so I’d jump on it, don’t procrastinate.
And just to fully confirm that Unbox downloads are not going anywhere:
The goal of this Beta is to test our new instant streaming feature. Don’t want to wait for your video to download? Want to avoid downloading additional software? Want to watch Unbox videos on a Mac? Amazon Video On Demand is the solution to these common customer requests. Purchase or rent a video and you will have instant streaming access to your video from any PC or Mac. All of the existing Unbox functionality remains. You can continue to download your videos for offline playback on a PC or TiVo.