updated 11:20 am EST, Mon March 3, 2008
Amazon Unbox Changes
Amazon is contemplating major changes to its Unbox service to compete against rivals like iTunes and Netflix, say Unbox users sent a new survey. The online reseller is reportedly gauging customer interest in letting Unbox customers purchase HD versions of both movies and TV shows, providing an edge in content quality over most alternatives; most services such as the Apple TV's iTunes access and the Xbox 360's Video Marketplace currently allow only either rentals in HD or purchases in standard definition. The service may also allow users to download the documentaries and other special features normally stripped out of online purchases and rentals, Amazon hints.
The customer poll also points to changes in the business model that may open the door to bonus, flat-rate, or free services. Taking advantage of its status as a DVD reseller, Amazon suggests that it could offer a free, streaming version of any purchased DVD while customers wait for the physical copy to arrive. A permanent computer-based copy could also be available for a smaller extra fee, according to Amazon.
Alternately, customers could have the option of subscriptions to a limited number of either high-profile or independent movies per month, and could stream direct Unbox purchases over the web rather than waiting for a download. Importantly, viewers could even watch movies for free from the Amazon website if willing to watch ads, the company says.
Other additions hinted in the survey would include the ability to browse all purchased movies from a TiVo DVR or the option to burn DVD copies of movies at no extra charge by using newer, authorized DVD drives and recording software.
None of the features are certain, though Amazon asks respondents to rank their favorite features, hinting that it will implement the most popular features. The additions could provide a significant technical advantage to Unbox, which until now has been limited in its delivery options relative to other movie services.