By Harry McCracken | Tuesday, April 21, 2009 at 2:13 pm
In multiple ways, Amazon.com has been girding itself to become the principal rival to Apple’s iTunes Store, with an impressive DRM-free music download service and movie and TV shows that are available on PCs, Macs, TiVos, Roku’s cool video player, Sony Bravia TVs, and elsewhere. The most notable omission to date has been a biggie: There hasn’t been any HD content. But as we speak, Amazon is rolling out HD offerings at its Video on Demand site and through the various hardware devices that support its video service. (I just checked out my TiVo, which magically has Amazon HD TV shows and movies where none existed before.)
Amazon says there are 500 movies and TV shows total; as usual with HD, it includes some recent high-profile stuff but not everything, along with some older releases and oddities. Movies cost $3.99-$4.99 to rent; TV shows are $2.99 to purchase. For some reason, PC and Mac viewing is available only for TV episodes; you can only watch movies on hardware devices such as TiVo and Roku boxes, which also provide access to TV programs.
Another bit of related news today: Panasonic TV sets with the Viera Cast service, which until now has provided mainly an uninspiring selection of services such as YouTube and Picasa photo albums, will be able to stream Amazon video in both its standard-def and high-def incarnations. That should instantly make Viera Cast a whole lot more appealing.
More thoughts once I’ve had the chance to consume some HD content. Meanwhile, here’s an screengrab of what the HD-ordering system looks like Roku:
[UPDATE: My TiVo went from giving me access to Amazon HD to telling me that the Amazon service is temporarily unavailable for “scheduled maintenance.” And the Roku box I’m using isn’t showing HD titles on its menus, though the episode of The Office in HD that I bought at Amazon is available for playback. I’ll try again later…]