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Vudu: Netflix killer or just another VOD wannabe?

A new start-up is promising to deliver movies to your TV via the Web, without the long download waits that have plagued previous video-on-demand solutions.

Vudu rear panel
Vudu: Is this the video-on-demand box we've been waiting for?

Heard of Vudu? Neither had anybody else until this weekend, when the Silicon Valley start-up got a double shot of well-coordinated publicity that's been burning up the Web: a big write-up in the New York Times and a batch of exclusive photos on Gizmodo. Vudu, it seems, is the latest stab at a video-on-demand movie box--a little set-top device that hooks to your TV and downloads movies from a broadband Web service. But Vudu looks to have some key advantages over past efforts from the likes of RCA and MovieBeam. First, it has the backing of most of the major movie studios (all but Sony Pictures are said to be on board), so there should be no dearth of A-list content. Secondly, the bulk of Vudu's 41-person management and staff comprises refugees from TiVo, and they know a thing or two about digital media. And finally, the Vudu box uses a form of peer-to-peer networking--swapping movie files between subscribers' boxes--to supposedly guarantee instant-on access to most movie choices. In other words, you won't have to preorder your choice or wait a couple of hours for the film to download before you can begin viewing.

Sounds enticing, to be sure, but that's not to say it still won't be an uphill battle. Engadget throws a healthy dose of cold water on the Times coverage, questioning how different Vudu's service is compared with what consumers can already get from the Xbox 360 Video Marketplace, the Apple TV, Amazon Unbox on TiVo, and even the generic video-on-demand available on most digital cable systems. It's a valid question, but at the same time, each of those existing options has drawbacks of its own. At the very least, I hope the mere entry of Vudu into the market lights a fire under Microsoft, Apple, and Netflix--as well as any other player in the VOD market--to improve the quality, quantity, and pricing of their respective options.

[Found on Zatz Not Funny.]