Monday, November 12, 2007

They make it hard to do the right thing

Studies into file-sharing patterns at American universities repeatedly show that the major factor involved is less price and more convenience. It's often been said that you can't beat free, but in fact you can: it's worth paying something for fast, reliable, good service.

There aren't a lot of television programs I watch, but there are a few. I have most of them on DVD box sets, but for the couple remaining, what to do? I for one would never Break The Law, but it gets tiresome watching the latest episode of Heroes by remote viewing: psychic powers are notoriously fickle and unreliable, and can sometimes be slow and flakey.

So I was very excited to receive an email from Amazon telling me that, as somebody who had purchased the Heroes Season One DVD, I might be interested in purchasing Season Two episodes for just ninety-nine cents. Would I ever -- with the current exchange rate, that's around the "sweet spot" that I'd be prepared to pay for Internet downloads.

Alas, it is not to be. They don't want my money:

Before you can download your Unbox video, you need to install the Amazon Unbox video player. ... Currently, the Unbox video player only works on PCs running the Windows XP operating system (see all system requirements) and is only available to our customers located in the United States (see all terms of use).

This is wrong in so many ways...

  • There are standard, open formats for video that are viewable on any computer fast enough to deal with video. Your old Apple II won't make the cut, but there's no technical reason for restricting users to only people using Windows XP.

  • Bittorrent and other file sharing technologies don't restrict users to those in the United States. If the studios want to compete, they better start learning that the marketplace is now global: 95% of potential viewers are not in the USA.

  • Don't try to lock people into your shoddy, proprietary technology: I expect to use the browser and video player of my choice (within reasonable technical restrictions) to watch the videos.

Get with the program guys. You can compete with free, because people do want to pay for the videos they watch. You just have to make it easy for them to give you money, and provide a good service.

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