Saturday, February 10, 2007

Amazon Unbox + TiVo = interesting challenge to competitors

I recently wrote a post about how TiVo could be a real competitor to AppleTV and other living room video devices, but now it's officially been announced that Amazon Unbox will be able to deliver content directly to your TiVo.  Some of the cool features:

  • Purchased video are stored in your Amazon Media Library for re-download, meaning that you can delete them from your TiVo, but be secure in the knowledge that they haven't been deleted forever.  I'm assuming this is an implementation of Amazon's own S3 storage system, which would be theoretically infinitely scalable on a per user basis.

  • Unbox videos appear in the Now Playing list.  I guess this makes sense as the TiVo won't differentiate between recorded video and Unbox video from the TiVo interface.

  • Unbox videos will be of higher quality than those recorded at "best quality" on a TiVo Series2.

Interesting things to think about:

  • This only works for TiVo Series2 and Series3 boxes, which makes sense as Series1 boxes are not broadband-capable -- this should not be a surprise to anyone, though I do wonder whether it will work with DirecTiVo units and/or the Comcast boxes that are supposed to come out.

  • TiVo units accessing the service must be on your home network and not access the service via a phone line.  I wonder if this means that we may see a TiVo-branded 802.11n USB wireless adapter close to launch (that would be nice).

  • Movies can be loaded on 2 TiVos (or PCs, or combination thereof) and 2 portable devices at any given time.  Multi-room viewing features and TiVoToGo features will not work on Unbox videos.  I wonder how long it will take for someone to figure out how to manipulate Unbox videos once they've reached the TiVo; I'm guessing it won't take too long.

  • No mention of the ability to download videos that you already own to the TiVo and/or to upload those videos to the Amazon Media Library.  It's a big mistake if the TiVo can't play the DVDs that I've ripped and/or the TiVo content that I have archived in a compatible format, and it's a huge opportunity for Amazon to make some massive S3 money if they were to provide an option that allowed me to archive TiVo content for re-download in the Media Library as well as archive ripped content in the Media Library and get it off of my local storage.

  • I wonder if there is a way for Amazon to allow me to "rent" Unbox inventory on my TiVo.  If they could (and it would be really cool if they could), then it would not be unlikely to have a TiVo service plan that included a certain number of video rentals per month.

  • What if I don't want to use my TiVo to record television any more, but just want to use it as a gateway to the Unbox service?  I wonder if TiVo has contemplated this and whether or not they will have a no-cost service plan.  Furthermore, I wonder if TiVo has contemplated a stripped-down hardware device (maybe even co-branded with Amazon) that features higher quality audio and video outputs, but lacks all of the features to do video capture as a simple gateway living room device to the Unbox service.

Link -- TiVo site (this is also where you can sign up for notifications about the service)

Link -- Amazon site (this will also be the link to click to link your TiVo once the service is live) 

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