I’ve been using DOS/Windows PCs since I was six or seven years old. It’s in my blood. Of course, I flirted with the Mac over the years, but she would be for me the rich, good-looking girl across the street; she smiled at me from time to time but we both knew I didn’t have a shot.

So when some folks try out the Mac and come back scratching their heads wondering what all the hubbub is about, I start to wonder… am I really more productive on the Mac, or am I just a sucker for good looks?

And then, I go back to the PC world for a few minutes and realize, oh, man, am I ever more productive on the Mac. For example, let’s examine Amazon Unbox, the PC’s answer to the iTunes Music Store.

For a long time now, if I’ve watched any TV, it’s been shows that I download to my Mac from the iTunes Store. While the content is calibrated to an iPod’s resolution, in practice it looks fine on a big screen from across the room (not wonderful, but fine). From the first day I tried it, it’s been a seamless experience: click, download, watch.

Amazon Unbox, on the otherhand, was the single worst consumer media experience I’ve ever had with a PC. It started out innocently enough. I clicked around on Amazon’s website, found the Unbox store, and downloaded Napoleon Dynamite, which I hadn’t seen yet. Before downloading, I was informed that I had to download:

– the Unbox player
– the .NET 2.0 framework
– Windows Media Player 10

Fair enough. They downloaded, and that was rather smooth. Then, the player launched. Let’s look past the crap interface and get to the user experience. The movie started downloading. Unfortunately, the estimated download time was completely random, jumping from 1 hour 50 minutes to 3 hours and everywhere in-between, never really getting any lower. Not sure what the deal there was.

Finally, about thirty minutes after starting the download, I could start watching. But, apparently the buffer calculation messed up, because it stopped about 1/4 of the way through. The UI wouldn’t let me do anything as intuitive as start over from where I left off, and I couldn’t jump to where I left off, but with some futzing around I was able to fast-forward at something like a 2-3x normal frame rate to where it left off.

And I watched the second forth of the movie, until it stopped again.

And then, it never went any further. I skipped back to that point, and it stopped again. I waited an hour, and tried again. Stopped in the same place. Tried it again the next day after it finished the download. And this was the best part: once the movie was fully downloaded, it no longer let me fast-forward, rewind, or skip around in the movie.

I fully appreciated this when I watched ten minutes of the beginning again, went to adjust the volume, accidentally hit the stop button (right next to the volume bar) and I had to start watching from the beginning all over again. What kind of nonsense is this?

So I played the movie again until I got to the half-way point when… it stopped the movie once again, despite saying it had completely downloaded the whole movie.

To add insult to injury, Amazon Unbox automatically downloads a 400 MB “portable” version of the movie, which the UI doesn’t give me the option to delete (I suppose I can do this through the file system). There doesn’t seem to be a way to turn off this “feature.” I guess we’re meant to feel that we can part with an extra 400 MB just in case we have a portable movie player.

If this is the PC world’s answer to the iTunes media ecosystem, I’m going to stay firmly put in Mac-land for some time to come.

2 thoughts on “Thoughts on Amazon Unbox and the Mac

  1. Honestly, with a PC less than 2.0 ghz you can’t watch itunes tv/movies without a pause every 3-4 seconds (that’s stated on the itunes site).

    Amazon unbox is a great solution for us pc users that itunes isn’t catering to. I can watch any video on amazon unbox and it actually plays smoothly. Itunes sent me a support message saying to upgrade my pc and it wasn’t their fault that mac software didn’t run smoothly on a pc.

    Itunes movies 1/10

    Amazon Unbox 10/10

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