Amazon Unbox on TiVo Going HD

Dave Zatz —  May 10, 2008

While I’ve heard murmurs from various corners for quite some time, this is the first official confirmation from TiVo that Amazon Unbox will be going HD:

Unbox, the content-downloading service TiVo started with Internet retail leader Amazon.com last year, can’t process HD content, though the companies will announce HD capabilities “in the not too distant future,” Mr. Denney said.

Megazone suspects a rollout would be tied to TiVo’s support of H.264 later this year in conjunction with YouTube playback. Though, I agree that an improved aspect ratio might be more meaningful than higher definition content – which presumably comes at a higher price, and with a slower download.

13 responses to Amazon Unbox on TiVo Going HD

  1. I use Unbox exclusively to get my mainstream media ( popular music, some movies ) and I can say as a recovering torrent addict, it’s excellent. Great prices, DRM free ( hoo ray! ) smooth buying experience with lots of control on my end.

    Too bad it sounds like the HD stuff will be restricted to just a few people ( only rich people, with $800 TiVo HDs, who pay $200+ a month for Comcast as their ISP? yeesh. ) . I think Amazon would do better by letting everyone have HD Unbox, get all of us in the long tail, instead of only allowing 12 people who live in mansions on the East Coast have it. :(

  2. Yikes Todd. I sure hope your bitter post is not really serious. Otherwise I couldn’t imagine anyone thinking TiVo HD is as financially far out of reach to most people as you say. Or perhaps I didn’t know to what an elite club I belong.
    Anyway…
    I’m glad they are going HD. I will check it out with hopes that I can dump Netflix. I am very disappointed in all the different ways Netflix throttles my account.

  3. HD is great, don’t get me wrong, but Unbox needs to focus more on video selections and content. It seems like there is about 1 out of every 10 movies on Unbox. Right now we can’t live without other video providers in our lives. (netflix, bb..etc) Unbox needs to work on a solution where people can just live with Unbox, nothing else.

  4. I’m looking forward to the widescreen aspect Ratio. Can’t stand zooming in on the content.

  5. Unless Amazon has plans to switch DRM systems, they will continue using VC-1 to encode videos. H.264 and WMDRM don’t mix.

  6. Chris, Amazon’s content is currently transcoded into MPEG-2 for TiVo. Partially evidenced by PC Amazon downloads and TiVo Amazon downloads having different aspect ratios, file sizes, and bitrates, as reported on Amazon.com.

    Not sure what’s going to happen when they flip the HD switch, though… I had assumed TiVo would take on WMV-HD and MS protection, but MZ is suggesting H.264 – not sure if that’s a guess or based on insider info.

  7. A tivo HD is less than 250, it hasn’t been 800 for over a year.

    You pretty much have to have cable to use a Tivo HD (Cable cards) already.

    I’m just worried that HD Unbox != HD unbox on tivo. Right now if I download BSG it looks great as long as I play it through my media center/media center extender. Playing it through my tivo makes it looks like crap.

  8. I intend to blog about this “soon” but my Xbox 360 HD downloads are ready to start watching 7 minutes after the download starts. Just like TiVo recording TV shows, I can watch a 360 HD movie from the beginning as the latter parts are still downloading. I’d expect tha TiVo/Amazon HD content to work the same way.

    Unfortunately for me they proably won’t offer any Amazon Unbox content to us Canadians. But when/if they do, I’ll be a customer. I’d rather download HD movies to my TiVo to watch (with the full TiVo functionality) than to my 360 – especially when I have to pay using the silly Microsoft Points system.

    …Dale

  9. Correct me if I am wrong Mr. Dietrich, but isn’t any HD content ( all content? ) you download into your Xbox trapped there for two years, only to be rendered useless at the next forced upgrade?

    http://www.engadget.com/2008/04/23/microsoft-turns-the-drm-screw-on-msn-music-owners

    I would never spend money on anything rotting away with that much DRM, then lose it a year or so later when MS does a mandatory end-of-life.

  10. I have the same fear as chris…I really hope amazon one ups the quality and beat what the 360, vudu etc hd downloads currently are and that its to the tivo AND pc

  11. Does somebody know which DRM is used for UnboxHD ?
    Is that a differnet one than used till now?

  12. Good step. More content would be nice too…

    Dave, seems like it could go either way. The box supports both h.264/AVC and VC-1/WMV. The quality of both should be similar, though h.264 should have slight advantages, which may increase over time given that it is pretty much clobbering VC-1 in the marketplace, so encoding efforts will focus more on it. But if Unbox is already using WMV that could tip the scales.

    I’d say its obvious they have to pick one of these. The MPEG-2 files would just be too big. If you think 5-6Mbps HD AVC videos look marginal, MPEG-2 HD probably isn’t doable at anything lower than 10-12Mbps. Meaning it won’t be possible to watch anything while you’re downloading, even with a GREAT broadband provider, and running you into your cap that much sooner.

    Don’t suppose it really matters which codec they use for this does it? The stuff will be locked to the Tivo like current Unbox content, and even if it were MPEG-2 encoded the S2 boxes couldn’t handle it anyway…

  13. I’d really like to know what the ratio of SD TVs to HD TVs is. I’m still running a SD TV. It’s a sony the picture is crisp, I know it’s going to last a long time. I can’t see spending $700 for an item that I don’t know what it’s life span will be.