Ars reports that Amazon.com is planning to roll out a video-download service in April:
Amazon’s vision includes a try before you buy model, where you could download or stream a movie for a fee, and apply that fee as a credit towards the purchase price of the corresponding DVD, should the content tickle your fancy. Another idea is to provide free downloadable versions along with regular DVD purchases, to draw in those who would rather swing by the closest Wal-Mart or FYE for their movie needs, because they just can’t stomach waiting a couple of days for their DVDs to be delivered.
This is eerily reminiscent of MP3.com, the audio-streaming service that was unfortunately struck down as copyright infringement. The difference, of course, was that MP3.com was founded on the radical notion that once you purchase a CD, you have a right to do as you please with it as long as you don’t share it with others. If the last few months are any indication, Amazon’s service is likely to be quite different: sure, you’ll be able watch the movie right away, but you’ll only be able to do so with the official Amazon player, and on devices that adopt Amazon’s DRM format.
It will be interesting to see if Amazon releases yet another DRM format, or decides to piggy-back on one of the existing ones. There are already three major video DRM formats (Apple, Microsoft, and Google), all of them incompatible. The last thing we need is a fourth. At some point, consumers are going to start getting headaches when they have to keep track of which of their movies play on which of their devices and applications. Hollywood seems to consider irritating their paying customers a good business strategy.