Amazon Launches Video on Demand Service

Amazon customers, watch your e-mail inboxes carefully today. You might be one of the select few who get invited to try out Amazon's new Video On Demand Service, which is scheduled to rollout today for a limited, invitation-only debut. The rest of us schlubs will have to wait until later in the summer to check it out. 

Unlike Amazon's Unbox service, which is a download-only proposition, Amazon's new Video on Demand service will stream movies and TV shows directly to your computer. Amazon's Unbox service requires proprietary software and runs only on Windows-based computers and TiVo set-top boxes. Right now, our only source of information about the Amazon Video on Demand service is from the New York Times; the Times does not specify whether the new service will run on computers that use operating systems other than Windows (such as the Mac OS or Linux). We suspect that the Amazon Video on Demand service will work only on computers running Windows as it will likely use the digital rights management (DRM) built into Windows Media Player. We have a query into Amazon and will update this story when we learn more.

 Credit: Sony
That is to say, however, that Amazon Video on Demand will not be a computer-only affair. We suspect that the service will also be available on TiVo and perhaps other devices, such as the Roku's media player box and the PlayStation 3. We'll update the story when we learn more abut these potential prospects as well.

One non-computer device that we know that Amazon Video on Demand will be compatible with is Sony's Bravia Internet Video Link (DMX-NV1) device. The Bravia Internet Video Link streams video from broadband Internet connections via the device's Ethernet connection to compatible Sony Bravia TVs through its HDMI output. The Bravia Internet Video Link device supports HD-quality video, which begs another unanswered question: Will any of Amazon Video on Demand's 40,000 movies and TV shows be available in HD resolutions? We'll get back to you on that one too!

One convenient aspect of Amazon Video on Demand service is that once you purchase a title to view, it is accessible from multiple locations for repeated viewings:

"Amazon will store each customer's selection in what it calls "Your Video Library." Customers can then watch that show or movie whenever they return to Amazon, even if it is from a different computer or device, a solution that neatly gets around studio concerns about piracy."

Brad Stone, the author of the New York Times story about Amazon's Video on Demand service speculates that the new service will not create significant revenue for the company, but instead sees the service as a way for Amazon to create the ability to make Amazon Store purchases directly from TVs.

Amazon's Video on Demand service will be vying against established bigwigs such as Netflix and Apple's iTunes and Apple TV. But as movies and TVs are now also coming to the XBox360 and PS3, we might just be at the tipping point where video on demand for TVs has jumped from primarily a set-top-box-only proposition to one where we have lots of choices. Perhaps there is room enough for everyone? Pundits say that healthy competition is good for the consumer, as it gives us lower prices, better service, and more features. Time will tell.