Launches Movie Download Service - InformationWeek

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News Launches Movie Download Service

Called Unbox, the service includes desktop software for playing content on a PC and a second file for playback on any Windows Media-compatible device. has launched a video and movie download service that could eventually present a challenge to Apple Computer's iTunes, but at least one analyst believes the retail giant will first need a "super interesting" mobile device to go along with it. on Thursday started selling movies, TV shows and other video content from Hollywood and TV networks. The retailer said it had signed a total of 30 studios and networks.

Called Unbox, the service includes desktop software for playing content on a PC, and a second file for playback on any Windows Media-compatible device. Buyers can start watching any show or movie within five minutes after the download begins, said.

TV series sell for $1.99 per episode, while movies cost between $7.99 and $14.99 apiece. Movie rentals are available for $3.99 a piece. Apple does not sell movies through its iTunes store, but analysts expect the company to add the service in the near future.'s video pricing is comparable to Apple's.

But the key item missing from's offering is a mobile media device to play video content that's comparable to Apple's iPod. Michael Gartenberg, analyst for JupiterResearch, points out that has a disclaimer with the service that says content will run on six tested devices, but also notes that "we cannot guarantee performance on untested devices."

"Not exactly a ringing endorsement, Plays For (Almost) Sure strikes again," Gartenberg said in his blog. Windows Media devices that carry the Play For Sure logo, are suppose to play content from supporting online stores, according to Microsoft.

Gartenberg said Apple's success in online music and video is tied to the popularity of its iPod, which accounts for about three fourths of the market for portable media players. The device is what drove people to iTunes to buy content, he said.

"It's hard to see this (Unbox) as a real threat to Apple, for now," Gartenberg said. "Pricing isn't likely to drive folks to use this, so for now, it's mostly a mobility story without a super interesting mobile device to use it with."

Having a good portable device is important because content from and Apple cannot be played easily on a TV, which is how most consumers prefer to watch video and movies. Neither company offers a burn-to-DVD service.

Recent movies available on include "V for Vendetta," "Inside Man," "Failure to Launch," "RV," and "Walk the Line." TV shows include CBS's "CSI," and Fox's "24" and "Prison Break."

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