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Amazon's downloadable movie launch beats rival Apple

Discussion in 'Information Technology' started by NewsBot, Sep 10, 2006.

  1. NewsBot

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    The worst-kept secret in Hollywood is out.

    Online retail juggernaut Amazon.com on Thursday unveiled a service aimed at conditioning the masses to purchase and download movies online — pre-empting a competitor, but with little fanfare.

    Amazon Unbox, announced via news release shortly after the markets closed, features software that allows consumers to purchase, download and play television shows, movies and other videos on computers and portable devices.

    Apple Computer — which has dominated downloadable music and video sales — is widely expected to unveil a rival service Tuesday, in tandem with an updated iPod music and video player that features a wider viewing screen.

    In a surprise, Amazon's service doesn't allow customers to burn videos onto DVDs — one of the viewing restrictions that hinders movie-download services such as Movielink.com and CinemaNow.

    The major Hollywood film studios have faced increasing pressure to sell movies online, as box-office receipts steadily decline and peer-to-peer networks offer illegal movie downloads free.

    Technology analysts had speculated that Hollywood would loosen licensing restrictions on Amazon — giving customers the ability to unshackle content from desktop computers — because of the Seattle company's brand power and ability to reach a mass consumer market.

    "[Hollywood] owns the tickets to the movies and you're only allowed to use whatever [rights] they open to you," Rob Enderle, principal analyst with the Enderle Group, said of the studios' restrictions. "That's been a painful aspect of every one of the download services. There's nothing Amazon can do about that."

    The movie-download business is a natural fit for Amazon, which still draws a third of its business from media sales. The company also operates the Internet's top-ranked movie site, IMDb.com, which attracted 18.7 million unique visitors in July, according to comScore Networks.

    Amazon said Thursday it would charge $1.99 per TV show, and $7.99 to $14.99 for most movies. Movie rentals will run $3.99.

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