The two companies announced a test version of the new service, called Unbox on TiVo, will begin Wednesday, the day after Wal-Mart announced it would enter what has quickly become a competitive market for downloadable video with its own online video store.
The partnership will allow video downloaded from Amazon's UnBox service to be transferred to the set-top boxes of TiVo's 1.5 million customers in the United States.
"We think this is a breakthrough," said Bill Carr, Amazon.com's vice-president of digital media. "We're providing people with the simplest way to actually play back their digital content on a television set."
While video download sales are growing - Apple officials said last year iTunes was selling roughly one million a week - the stumbling block has been that the video is essentially trapped on the computer. Observers say that is what makes the TiVo deal unique.
"Frankly, nobody else has the solution that allows you get something over an internet connection and watch it with the click of the button," said James McQuivey, principal analyst at Forrester Research Inc. "If it's that easy, then they'll be the first. They'll be able to plant their flag."
So does this mean you can play it on your Tivo box *and* save it to your computer? I'm guessing yes, since Amazon previously let you download the videos you purchased to 2 different computers.
But what happens when you decide to end your Tivo subscription or get a new computer? I'm guessing you don't get to re-download your content. And if that's the case, it's still a better deal (for movies, at least) to purchase a physical DVD that you could play anywhere without restrictions. The exception would be if the downloadable content comes cheaper (which it should...there's no packaging or processing going on).