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Amazon opens (American) video streaming shop

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Amazon's new streaming video storefront has gone live today, replacing the online retailer's previous attempt at vending digital video via downloads.

Amazon Video on Demand arrives about two months after service was introduced as a beta build to a limited number of US customers.

The store now lets users stream commercial-free movies or TV shows on either a Mac or PC web browser. Amazon previously required customers to download and watch titles through their Unbox application or TiVo.

While Video on Demand now lets customers rent or buy titles and view them instantly, the Unbox app is still required to access videos when not online. Keep in mind non-streaming downloads are currently viewable offline to PC users only, as Unbox is still not available for Mac. (Gee thanks, DRM!)

Amazon has also inked a deal with Sony to let content be streamed directly to compatible Bravia television sets. This feature of course has an extremely limited audience, but is never-the-less a promising sign of things to come should this sort of thing be extended to a wider range of sets.

The online storefront itself resembles a typical Amazon.com page. When a user clicks on a show or movie, they're directed to a two-minute preview, where after the etailer prompts for some legal tender to continue.

A typical TV show costs about $2. Movies are $3 to $4 to rent, $10 to $15 to purchase. Amazon claims to have over 40,000 movies and TV shows available now. The store boasts films and shows from all the major studios and networks — with the exception of Walt Disney and its ABC subsidiary. They're beholden to Apple.

And perhaps it's not terribly surprising the two aren't onboard with Amazon, as the service is clearly made to compete with Apple's iTunes store.

They've even got a (fake) Front Row-type thing going on.

But it would seem most studios and networks have chosen to let their content be served from several online providers rather than let one dominate the medium. Perhaps they've learned a thing or two from the music industry trying to squirm away from Apple's musical monopoly.

We should note there are some other (legal) streaming TV and movie services available stateside, including Hulu.com, which offers its content gratis so long as viewers tolerate commercial interruptions. ®

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