Amazon Unbox...A review of the new service
A couple of weeks ago Tivo and Amazon.com unveiled a new service, Amazon Unbox. The basic idea is simple. You rent/buy bigtime Hollywood movies and television shows and watch them on your computer, an approved player (non-ipod video players of course), or ON YOUR TIVO. That is right, the long talked about service of renting a movie online and having it downloaded to your Tivo for future viewing is a reality.
There really is minimal setup required for using your Tivo (requires a broadband connected box though). You just need to link your Tivo account to your Amazon account, and then start browsing and selecting content. Within 15 minutes, your Tivo begins downloading your content. You can buy movies outright for about 15 bucks or you can rent movies. A rented movie stays on your box for 30 days, but once you begin playing it a 24 hour timer begins and when it runs out, the movie will be automatically deleted.
I tried the service out with Mike Judge's instant classic "Idiocracy" (review coming soon). I linked my tivo account on Amazon, which took about 5 minutes. I selected my movie, put in my billing info***, and then went to bed. I woke up the next morning with my movie waiting for me. The whole service is ridiculously easy to use. If you don't have Tivo, you can use this service with a downloadable "Unbox Video Player" as well, but there are a lot of downloadable movie services out there now (not to mention all the torrents out there). Another big plus for big Tivo nuts...Amazon will continue to honor your downloads and selections if your Tivo does not have room in it. So don't worry if your Tivo is always full, Unbox will wait for you to clear room. Just a quick detour...I have used Xbox 360's video marketplace service. It is fantastic. The HD content speaks for itself. Great video quality and great choices, but the big drawback that keeps me from using it is that you hvae to keep your 360 on all the time (which given its spotty history of crashing kind of scares me) and I use my 360 for playing games. The second you play a game over Xbox Live (which is every game I play) the download is put on pause. Tivo is always on anyway so this marriage just works better in my opinion.
As for the drawbacks, I think the main issue that comes up now is lack of High Def quality movies. I think with time as broadband becomes more of the status quo and more importantly once the HD Tivo box comes down in price and becomes more accessible HD content should be inevitable. The other drawback I noted was the type of content on the service is actually more limited than I thought it would be. There is a good selection of your biggest movies of the past 10 years, but some of the smaller flicks are missing...but once again with time I am sure the library will increase in size. Also, you have to be on a PC to initiate these downloads. You can't browse over your Tivo. Apparently, a lot of people are reporting issues with the PC download side of things, but I have only tried it over Tivo so I can't really comment on that.
I highly recommend this service for Tivo users because of its ease of use and more importantly its quick turn around time compared to something like Netflix. Hopefully, this service will continue to help Tivo differentiate itself from all the other cable company DVR's out there, and most importantly help them stay a player in the game...at least until all the competitors get their act together and start offering similar services.
You can sign up for Unbox by going to Amazon.com and clicking on the "Unbox Video" link on the left side menu.
***If you link your Tivo before April 30th, you get one free download (15 bucks value) on the service.***