CNet: UnBox is DoublePlusUnGood

by on September 9, 2006 · 8 comments

CNet has a harsh review of Amazon’s new video download service:

I left work after that and rebooted my laptop at home. That’s when the real trouble began. I noticed that the Amazon player had launched itself. Annoying. I looked in the program for a preference to stop it from launching itself, and there was none. Typical. So I went to msconfig and unchecked Amazon Unbox so that it would definitely not launch itself at start-up. When I rebooted, it was no longer there. However, my firewall warned me that a Windows service (ADVWindowsClientService.exe) was trying to connect to the Net. I clicked More Info in the firewall alert and found it was Amazon Unbox. Downright offensive. It still was launching a Net-connection process that even msconfig apparently couldn’t stop. Forget it. That’s not the behavior of good software. I went to uninstall it.

After the Install Shield launched and I chose uninstall, I got a login screen for my Amazon account. I just wanted to uninstall it. I shouldn’t have to log in to my account to do that. So I canceled the login, and the uninstall failed. I tried that three times, and it failed each time. Finally I gave up and logged in and the uninstall finished.

So, in summary, to be allowed the privilege of purchasing a video that I can’t burn to DVD and can’t watch on my iPod, I have to allow a program to hijack my start-up and force me to login to uninstall it? No way. Sorry, Amazon. I love a lot of what you do, but I will absolutely not recommend this service. Try again.

As Ed Felten has explained, it’s not a coincidence that DRM software tends to act like spyware.

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com/ enigma_foundry

    Another Ed Felten point that was quite well made in his fairly recent podcast was the importance of chosing the right analogy when describing any new technology.

    He described DRM technology as the deliberately making of incompatibility, and if someone wanted to make a special type of new TV antenna that was incompatible with existing broadcast standards, and then asked for that incompatibility to be legally protected, we would find that strange, right.

    Another excellent post that is relevant to your experiance, Tim, is the “University-paid Music Subscriptions a Bust” which described the fact that even when Universities paid for music subscriptions to paid services (presumably iTunes) students still preferred the convenience of DRM-less files that could be obtained via P2P. This even despite the legal issues. That, for me, was a “light-bulb” post….

  • http://enigmafoundry.wordpress.com eee_eff

    Another Ed Felten point that was quite well made in his fairly recent podcast was the importance of chosing the right analogy when describing any new technology.

    He described DRM technology as the deliberately making of incompatibility, and if someone wanted to make a special type of new TV antenna that was incompatible with existing broadcast standards, and then asked for that incompatibility to be legally protected, we would find that strange, right.

    Another excellent post that is relevant to your experiance, Tim, is the “University-paid Music Subscriptions a Bust” which described the fact that even when Universities paid for music subscriptions to paid services (presumably iTunes) students still preferred the convenience of DRM-less files that could be obtained via P2P. This even despite the legal issues. That, for me, was a “light-bulb” post….

  • Steve R.

    Ed Felton just recently wrote (8/30/2006):
    “So why is AOL distributing crud with its app while Google isn’t? One possibility is that Google practicing its “Don’t Be Evil” motto. Another possibility is that the companies are at different stages of a standard software business model, which goes like this:

    1. build market share
    2. lock in customers
    3. profit from lock-in

    Economics tells us that if a customer is locked in so that he would have to pay a cost of C (in money or hassle) to stop using your product, then you can extract extra revenue of C from that customer. You can extract that value by charging him a higher price or by subjecting him to hassles that he would pay C to avoid. In this case the hassle is crudware that the vendor is presumably being paid to deliver.

    AOL’s client software is at Stage 3 of this plan, so it makes sense for them to be cashing in with crudware. But Google’s web apps are still at Stage 1, where the goal is to attract customers. The same is true, presumably, of most web-based apps Ã?¢â?‰? which means that once we all come to rely on web-based apps, they’re likely to start delivering crudware too. Being an early adopter has its advantages.

    (http://www.freedom-to-tinker.com/?p=1058)

    Amazon.com has clearly used proprietary/DRM technologies to lock the customer into their product line, which appears to be the real motivator for this technology rather than frustrating piracy.

  • http://www2.blogger.com/profile/14380731108416527657 Steve R.

    Ed Felton just recently wrote (8/30/2006):
    “So why is AOL distributing crud with its app while Google isn’t? One possibility is that Google practicing its “Don’t Be Evil” motto. Another possibility is that the companies are at different stages of a standard software business model, which goes like this:

    1. build market share
    2. lock in customers
    3. profit from lock-in

    Economics tells us that if a customer is locked in so that he would have to pay a cost of C (in money or hassle) to stop using your product, then you can extract extra revenue of C from that customer. You can extract that value by charging him a higher price or by subjecting him to hassles that he would pay C to avoid. In this case the hassle is crudware that the vendor is presumably being paid to deliver.

    AOL’s client software is at Stage 3 of this plan, so it makes sense for them to be cashing in with crudware. But Google’s web apps are still at Stage 1, where the goal is to attract customers. The same is true, presumably, of most web-based apps Ã?¢â?‰? which means that once we all come to rely on web-based apps, they’re likely to start delivering crudware too. Being an early adopter has its advantages.

    (http://www.freedom-to-tinker.com/?p=1058)<…>

    Amazon.com has clearly used proprietary/DRM technologies to lock the customer into their product line, which appears to be the real motivator for this technology rather than frustrating piracy.

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