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Unpacking Amazon Unbox

Michelle Meyers
Michelle Meyers wrote and edited CNET News stories from 2005 to 2020 and is now a contributor to CNET.
Michelle Meyers
2 min read

Amazon.com's much anticipated "Unbox" video download service launched yesterday, giving the online retail giant at least a five-day edge over Apple Computer, which is on Tuesday.

amazon unbox

So far, so good, at least in terms of Amazon Unbox's user interface, bloggers say. In one click, you can easily download full-length films and TV shows alike. (FYI, Amazon has exclusive rights to Star Trek episodes).

However given DRM restrictions and the download prices, some are having a hard time understanding why consumers wouldn't choose to simply buy a DVD. And of course, some can't get beyond the service's incompatibility with Macs and iPods.

Blog community response:

"I just really donÂ’t see the appeal here. Who would prefer to get a crappier product with painful DRM restrictions without getting a significant price reduction in exchange? If you're going to take away features, why keep the price the same? And shouldn't they be offering something that's at least close to what you can download for free (albeit illegally) online, which is always without DRM and always has the 5.1 audio track, if not many of the extras?"
--Fake Rake

"One thing missing from the new Amazon movie/tv download store--the Amazon Unbox--is the ability to play the show or movie on a TV. Their only solution is to put the movie or video on one of their approved devices which can be connected to a TV. Unfortunately, their list doesn't include the iPod, a result of their choice of software. In fact, their system doesn't work with Macs or iPods at all. Even so, I still do not understand the appeal of a system where you have to watch the movie on your computer. Except in a few cases--traveller with a laptop, student in a dorm room with no TV--I donÂ’t get it. "
--Brian ReillyÂ’s other weblog

"Two easy consequences: DRM will be shoved down everyone's throats and everyone will accept it because hey! I can download '24' and 'CSI' and watch it like now! I don't care about my cultural rights! (and why would I for pabulum like that?!) /snark; (and) mad scramble to find easy solutions for piping movies from your computer to your home entertainment system. This sector has been growing steadily for years but this will probably crank it up a few notches. "

"Unfortunately, the offering is about as 'me too' as you can imagine. It's got all the problems of just about every other video download offering out there. It only works on Windows. Copy protection galore. Limited usage. Relatively high prices compared to alternatives...There's nothing new here and nothing compelling. Amazon has shown in the past that it understands a lot about making the online shopping experience work well for consumers. It's too bad they were unable to transfer that knowhow to video downloads."