We’ve talked about Vudu before – the upstart, P2P video rental (or purchase) box that’s been getting decent press. My main concern has always been: How are they going to price it? Originally, I heard we’d see Apple TV prices. Then in June, when Vudu visited the Digital Experience event in NYC, a couple of people whispered to me it’d be closer to $500. As it turns out, Vudu will be shipping later this month at $400 – plus per movie fees.
No matter how good Vudu is, for $400 wouldn’t you rather have an Xbox 360? Movie rentals and much more. Maybe the interface isn’t as slick or maybe the library isn’t as large (for now), but wouldn’t you rather have true HD flicks on a multi-function device rather than upscaled 480p on a dedicated box? For about $400 you could also pick up a HD DVD or Blu-ray player and let Netflix continue to send you discs at higher resolutions. Not to mention, we all suspect Sony will be bringing movie downloads to the PS3 and perhaps Unbox (via TiVo) will go HD next year. Of course the biggest gotcha is that the cable and satellite providers all offer video on demand. Again the libraries aren’t as large, but you don’t have to pay $400 just to browse the aisles.
On the technical end, the most interesting Vudu feature isn’t the P2P connection (why should I share my bandwidth?), but the unique remote control. It’s small, simple, and sexy. It also has a scroll wheel, which strikes me as very efficient. However, even the remote has a gotcha – RF only. Meaning, while you can hide Vudu in a cabinet, you’re not going to control it with most universal remotes. But with that scroll wheel, maybe you wouldn’t want to anyway.
The embargo has passed and several sites chime in…
NY Times: Vudu is a clear win if you, like 30 million other Americans, make several trips to the video store each month. It’s also great if you like pay-per-view but wish you had a better selection. Vudu may not be a Netflix killer, though, unless you think Vudu’s instant access is more important than Netflix’s much larger selection (more than 70,000 movies).
USA Today: A similar pricing scheme was a chief reason I didn’t recommend a somewhat similar on-demand service called MovieBeam, reviewed here a year-and-a-half ago. It then cost $200 for a box to rent flicks, albeit for a far slimmer selection of movies.
CNET: Sticklers that we are, we’d like to see it be an even better deal: more available content; lower pricing; and more functionality. That said, the Vudu is light-years ahead of earlier similar attempts in this arena, offering better content than Akimbo and far better quality and selection than MovieBeam. It’s the first dedicated Internet video-on-demand unit that delivers a worthwhile combination of content, convenience, and quality at a reasonable price.
Gizmodo: Normally I don’t whine about high prices, but I think $400 is a little too much for a box that doesn’t come with any free content. There’s never been a better case for the razor-and-blades model. With a pricetag like that, Vudu is certainly not going to scare the bejeezus out of Blockbuster Video—not nearly as much as it rightly should.
NewTeeVee: Vudu has yet to roll out their box at retail, and I’ll be watching very closely to see whether these boxes all work as well as the one I’ve been using this past week. As we all know, new services tend to have performance issues once mass rollouts happen, as we saw with Joost’s entry into wider beta. And even with the smoothness of the service’s performance, I still have problems with pretty much all Internet VOD service limited usage rights – including Vudu’s.