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September 7, 2006

Amazon Unbox: First impressions

Posted by Kim Peterson at 3:44 PM

Unfortunately, Amazon has a long list of can't-dos for its new Unbox movie download service.

-- You can't use it with a Macintosh or an iPod

-- You have to have Windows XP Service Pack 2 installed on your machine. It also works with Windows XP Media Center Edition 2005 Update Rollup 2. Try saying that three times.

-- You can't use the Unbox movie player to play movies downloaded from other vendors. It only works with Amazon purchases.

-- You can't download more than one video file at a time

-- You can't watch the movies on your television unless you have some way to connect your PC to your TV -- usually with an S-cable for video. (Or if you have Windows XP Media Center) But S-cables only transmit video, you still have to play the audio part on your computer or on speakers.

-- You can't burn a movie to a DVD and then play that disc on a DVD player. You can only burn a movie to a DVD for backup storage purposes.

-- You must watch a video rental from Amazon within 30 days, or it expires. And once you begin playing it, you have 24 hours to watch the whole thing before it expires.

Amazon said only the following devices have been tested with Unbox. I've added Amazon's selling price for each device in parentheses:

Creative Zen Vision: M (around $275 for 30 GB storage; 60 GB version not available)
Creative Zen Vision ($414 for 30 GB storage)
Toshiba Gigabeat S (I can't even find a "Gigabeat S" on Amazon)
Archos AV 500 ($495 for 100 GB storage)
Archos AV 700 ($535 for 100 GB storage)
iRiver Portable Media Center ($230 for 20 GB storage)

Analyst Michael Gartenberg weighs in with his first take:

Without a compelling device story (and it's not clear YET whether Zune will play protected music or video from Plays for Sure services) it's hard to see this as a real threat to Apple ... for now. Pricing isn't likely to drive folks to use this so for now it's mostly a mobility story without a super interesting mobile device to use it with.

One feature does sound interesting. If you have the Unbox player installed in your home PC, you can log in to Amazon at work and tell it to send a movie to your home PC to watch later.

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