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Summary:

[qi:032] The Internet Video download boxes are dime a dozen (or so it seems.) Not a day passes by when a start-up promises to deliver a box that would change our life. Well, not one of them has thus far changed our video watching lives. There […]

[qi:032] The Internet Video download boxes are dime a dozen (or so it seems.) Not a day passes by when a start-up promises to deliver a box that would change our life. Well, not one of them has thus far changed our video watching lives. There are half a dozen start-ups that are building Internet video download set-top boxes of some sort. I remain pessimistic about the chances of such standalone video boxes. A weather man would describe this entire market as “cloudy” with occasional breaks of sunshine.

Steve Jobs and Apple (APPL) launched Apple TV with much fanfare, before calling it a “hobby.” It is MIA at Apple stores. Today, Vudu, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based start-up backed by Greylock Ventures and Benchmark Capital, launched its download box (expected to go on sale by end of this month,) hoping that it can out Apple, Apple in the download-video device business. The company is offering about 5,000 movies either for rental ($0.99 – $3.99) or purchase ($4.99 – $19.99.)

It has received mixed reviews. In a previous post I had expressed my extreme skepticism at the company and their claims. Since then got a demo in a “company controlled” environment, and was mildly impressed by the quality of the video and the interface. But without actual review it didn’t make sense at the time to write about the device.

Michael Wolf, an analyst for ABI Research has been one of the handful who got a chance to play with Vudu, offered to contribute his impressions of Vudu (posted over on NewTeeVee). He thinks it is one of the better options out there. David Pogue of The New York Times points out that the catalog of titles available and timing of movie availability is going to be a challenge for the company.

Vudu, as I see it has two challenges. First, getting folks to upgrade from their more predictable (and affordable) DVD watching habits. Second one is even harder: surviving Hollywood. That’s like sleeping in the same bed with rattle snake: good luck guys.

PS: Are you likely to give Vudu (or any such device) a try?

  1. Meh. There’s just no real draw for me to go and try some new “movie downloading” box and service from an unproven company. I’m still pretty ok with AppleTV and the Video marketplace on the Xbox 360. Outside of those two, why would you need anything else?

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  2. The engineering team at vudu should be extremely proud of their product. I installed mine this weekend and has found a permanent home next to my AT&T Homezone, Sonos, HD Tivo, Mac Mini, and Slingbox.

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  3. Hey brian can you send me the photo of your really cluttered entertainment center :-)

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  4. Definitely. My wife wants one!

    We end up with a bunch of 7th grade girls and 10th grade guys at our house. Which is fun and fantastic. But even with NetFlix, we end up going to Blockbuster quite a bit because we did not have the right movie right there. Ever been to Blockbuster to pick a movie with 3 15 year old boys? That is entertainment in itself.

    So keeping them around the house, less trips running around, providing a broad selection, making it easy, are all good things.

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  5. It’s with great lament that I look back on the failure of Akimbo which truly had an amazing headstart on this space before anyone even placed value on internet delivered on demand video set tops.

    Cognation was working with Akimbo for their Australian deployment (akimbo never got it’s act together for a PAL compliant box) before the biggest SNAFU decision to partner with Microsoft and get out of the box space was made….causing Akimbo never to be heard from again.

    I have many times personally apoligised to everyone who I involved in the Akimbo project many times over….. and still wonder what may have been.

    Does this mean I’m down on the ‘appliance tv’ space – no but it does open my eyes to how a perfect concept can be killed by a few people at the top….. oh and I’m always looking for new projects :)

    Cheers,
    Dean Collins
    http://www.Cognation.net

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  6. I am always skeptical of new hardware inventions till it has innovation and convenience like PSP or IPhone — but who know – where the money lies ?

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  7. Yeesh, when will these folks learn? Anyone remember Moviebeam? Enough already!

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  8. i wouldn’t get if it didn’t have all movies

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  9. Shame there’s no way for the general public to buy puts on a business like this.

    Would I buy something like this box? Sure, it’s a fine idea. Price point? Well, it’s just enabling me to rent movies. I’m thinking fifty bucks on the high end – you’re getting that rental revenue.

    But:

    “The box, which sells for $399″

    Good luck with that. Pure comedy if it’s just what it says it is. At $400, it needs to be a very good Tivo competitor.

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  10. The key to the “on demand” market is not technology. The technology can be USMail, IPTV, Cable/Sat VOD/PPV, Internet download to something (PC, game console, DVR, other STB, …) or video rental stores. The keys are convenience, pricing and selection. USMail has pricing and selction nailed. Cable, Sat and IPTV have a huge advantage on convenience.

    What competitive advantage does Vudu have? With worse selection than Netflix and worse convenience than Cable VOD, Vudu’s market, is limited to people that can’t wait for the one day turn around from Netflix, but consistently want something on the long tail that cable doesn’t offer.

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