Put Unboxed Back in the Box

September 11, 2006

UnboxedAlright, over the weekend I thought I’d give Amazon’s new video download service a whirl, instead it gave me a whirl. For those that may have missed the announcement, Amazon’s “Unboxed” video download service debuted late last week and of course it’s already generated a bit of buzz and again per usual buzz doesn’t always equal value.

Where to begin, hard to say really as I never got off the ground with Unboxed, yes I’ll take the high road and resist any temptations to make droll puns about the services name. I installed the ‘Unboxed’ client and chose an episode of ‘Firefly’ for my first title, opened the client and was met with “Unable to Download”. I received no other error messages or clues as to the nature of the hang-up or even how to remedy it in the clients help section.

UnableSo I was forced to call tech support, yes forced I couldn’t leave this one hanging (I’ll explain in a second) long story short ‘Unboxed’ tech-support tells me to uninstall the client. That was an hour and seven minutes ago, want to see the progress I’ve made on that uninstall, in that hour and seven minutes? Yeah, for me at least this is a no go, thankfully Amazon is offering the first (TV episode) download for free or I’d be out a buck ninety nine with hassle to boot.

So with that, my ‘Unboxed’ review was cut short. But I don’t need to have a complete download to know this service isn’t for me. See I’m one of those odd-ball, old timers that actually like to have a copy of the title I’ve purchased, a real tangible, physical disc instead of bits on a computer, bits subject to extraneous DRM and other annoying hilarity.

A quick comparison of DVD’s versus ‘Unboxed’ files reveal something even more unnerving than the fact the downloads are stymied with DRM and according to Amazon ‘incompatible with OSX’, that something is the price of the downloads. I found several files that were actually more expensive than their Amazon DVD counterparts. Let’s see, no box, no shipping, no cover art, no extras and no DTS soundtracks, right that should cost more than the DVD…

Ok, obviously I’m not the archetypical consumer for ‘Unboxed’; it’s geared for travelers, students, or those who have need/want to view hamstrung video content on PC’s. What frightens me however is this is the very technology many purport will replace physical media. Hogwash I say, physical media is tangible, consistent and remains a relatively good value. Put ‘Unboxed’ back in the box, it’s half baked. Long live physical media.

Postscript: Rumor has it Apple is set to announce a similar video download service. While I’m reasonably confident Apple stands a better chance at providing a better delivery platform, I’m also reasonably confident the value offered by Apple will be just as poor as ‘Unboxed’, compared to physical media.

Posted by Bryan Greenway | | Filed Under HTPC


  • Dave

    I agree. I would rather have a hardcopy. If this type of service is the future, I’ll gladly stay in the past.

  • Dave

    I agree. I would rather have a hardcopy. If this type of service is the future, I’ll gladly stay in the past.