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Amazon Crashes iTunes’ Honeymoon with New Video Download Service

Digital Journal — If online video is the treasure trove of the Web resurgence, then consider Amazon one of the newest players to hunt for that elusive gold.

Fresh off the heels of iTunes’ success and BitTorrent’s burgeoning growth, Amazon.com is ending months of speculation by announcing a digital video downloading service. Users can download movies or TV shows to their computers or shuttle them to portable media players, such as the Creative Zen Vision:M.

Amazon’s “Unbox” store is expected to compete head-to-head with Apple’s iTunes, the most well-known video-download service available. But iTunes only sells TV shows (for now), and Amazon’s service is making available hundreds of movies through its partnership with studios such as Paramount, 20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures, Warner Bros. and more.

Movie downloads will cost between $8 and $15 (all numbers US). They can also be rented for $4 (US), close to what consumers pay at video stores. A rented video must be viewed within 30 days of downloading, at which point the program will automatically delete the rented movie from your computer and the media library.

TV shows, some available the day after they first broadcast, will cost $2 per episode. In the TV realm, Amazon has teamed up with CBS, Fox, Comedy Central, MTV, PBS, E!, Discovery Channel and more.

“When you are on the road with your laptop, instead of carrying many DVDs, you could download movies and TV shows to take with you,” Bill Carr, Amazon’s vice president of digital media, told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. “There’s also the convenience factor … if you have broadband cable, you can click ‘download’ and within five minutes you have it. There’s no trip to the video store.”

It’s that ease of use Amazon is banking on in the race to win the online video-download marathon. Amazon is up against its main rival, Apple, in an attempt to sway downloaders to Unbox. Amazon is staking its position with one blunt move — Unbox customers can only use the service on Windows Media-compatible devices. Sorry, iPodders, you have to wait until Apple unveils its own movie download service to nab The Wedding Crashers off the Web — legally.

The launch of Amazon Unbox will spark a battle that both Wall Street and netizens will watch with interest. After all, there are massive profits available in the video-download segment, and Apple’s top position will not rest unnoticed. Along with Unbox, other rivals include Google Video, Movelink and CinemaNow.

Undoubtedly, 2007 will be the year of the movie download bonanza. Question is, who will take home the Oscar for Best Pixelated Pictures?

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