iTunes, Amazon Movie Services Not Ready for Prime Time Yet

With the entry of the Apple iTunes Music Store and into the movie business, film downloads are finally being sold by folks who really know how to sell entertainment. This is a big step in Hollywood's glacial crawl into the Digital Age. The limitations of the offerings, however, suggest that online distribution will remain mostly a novelty for the foreseeable future.

Amazon quietly announced its Unbox service on Sept. 11, and the iTunes movie store was announced the next day. As you would expect, both services are well-designed and easy to use. (Unbox's classifications still need a little work, though. Its title notwithstanding, "Pee-Wee's Big Adventure" is not an Action & Adventure movie.) Right now, the pickings on both the Amazon and Apple sites are slim. Unbox launched with "thousands" of titles from seven studios, but Amazon won't be more precise, and many of those "titles" are episodes of TV shows. iTunes starts with just 75 Walt Disney movies. While those numbers should grow quickly, the bar is set by Netflix, which offers more than 65,000 titles for rent. Both Amazon and Apple have priced their films at US$10 to $16. For some movies, Amazon also offers $4 "rentals," which are usable for 24 hours once opened.

Both services claim "near DVD" quality, but that's a stretch. It's closer to broadcast TV, with Amazon having a quality edge. And watching an Unbox or iTunes movie isn't an impulse decision like choosing something from an on-demand cable service. Even on my fairly fast Comcast connection, it took more than two hours to download a feature film. If you want to watch a movie without interruption while it's arriving on your hard drive, you'll need to start the download a good hour before you want to watch.

News source: Tech News World

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