Netflix, Blockbuster or Akimbo? Akimbo 4 Me

Michael Arrington is breaking up. With Netflix, and switching loyalties to Blockbuster, the video rental store which conjures up late fees and bad customer service in my mind.

Mike is making good arguments for switching to Blockbuster, but for me the future of video is not Netflix or Blockbuster. Instead it is Akimbo and services like Akimbo.

Ever since going pro with GigaOM, my life has become extremely hectic, forcing me to prioritize the health and future of the company over frivolous activities like watching television. I have given the cable TV premium package the heave-ho, and ever since the Yankees embarrassed themselves, I have not turned on the television.

Whenever I feel like watching some entertainment stuff, I often go to the iTunes store and download a couple of episodes of Monk or some show I actually care about.

But last week, Josh Goldman, CEO of San Mateo, Calif.-based Akimbo, convinced me that I should try the new RCA Akimbo Player. He said I would get great programs and movies and still wouldn’t need to watch TV in the traditional sense.

“You have now have five out of seven major studios supplying movies on this box,” he said. “There are 15,000 videos on it. It is not a cable replacement, it is like a DVD player or a DVD rental service. So you have to really see it.”

An hour later, one of his people dropped off a box. Now I actually had to play with it, though I was dreading the idea of setting it up, mucking around with network settings and what not. Typically such boxes take about three hours to get working properly. It was late at night, but I unpacked the box anyway. A handful of cables, a remote control, and that’s all.

One of the tricks I have learned with any network device is that you are better off using a wired Ethernet connection than trying to get wireless settings to work. I know it is not pretty! I turned off the modem, and the switch, plugged the wire into the back of RCA box, and connected the S-Video and audio cables to my LCD TV. And then switched everything back on, and turned on Akimbo.

It took me to the set-up screen, only to find that the network was configured, and there was a list of channels to chose from. I quickly went to the Movielink channel, and queued up four movies; went to BBC to download Fawlty Towers, and a bunch of Bollywood programs. The whole process took less than 30 minutes.

The downloads started pretty fast, and I could have started watching the movies right away if I wanted, but this being the first time, I decided to wait till next morning. I kept adding items to my queue, including new movies, and by the weekend there was nearly 24 hours worth of movies, television programs and Rocketbooms – stuff that I actually wanted to watch. This is television…. exploded.

Damn you Josh, you just distracted me from work!

My initial impressions of Akimbo are – from a usability stand point, it gets full marks, but its user interface is well… like Kate Moss without makeup. The picture is not as crisp I would have liked it to be, but you can barely tell the difference between a DVD and the download. The biggest issue is that of price: a monthly subscription and then per movie downloads can get awfully expensive pretty fat. Nevertheless, I am getting used to watching the television programs that are all good — so, Akimbo is staying with me for a while. No DVDs, no envelopes, no visits to the store, just click and add to the queue. What’s more, no PC necessary!

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