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Amazon Unboxed Goes HD: Eventually

Just poking around this afternoon I found this which says that Amazon is definitely working on an HD version of their Unbox movie download service. This service is operated in partnership with Tivo. The user interface is very nicely integrated into the Tivo menus. My wife likes it a lot.

They suspect that the new service will be based upon H.264 compression. That’s about the only real option around.

Neither the company nor its customers will have unlimited bandwidth so older compression schemes would be impractical. Newer compression schemes would require that Amazon encode the content themselves. Better that they settle on H.264 which is what Apple’s iTunes uses amongst others.

I have been assured by some associates who ought to know that 8 Mbps H.264 can look as good as the 19.2 Mbps MPEG-2 that we all get from local off-air HD broadcasts. That means that it’s likely to be at least comparable to HD over cable or satellite. These providers almost always rate shape (squeeze it down) to fit on their infrastructure.

Cable and satellite providers sell you digital quality and more HD channels…but that truly has no bearing on the real image quality. That’s marketing B.S. In reality it’s all about compression schemes and bit rates. They need to moderate bit rates in order to pack more channels into limited bandwidth transmission channels. Some set-top boxes can handle H.264, some don’t so they have to use the less efficient MPEG-2 codec.

When Amazon’s Unbox arrives in HD this will surely be the end of our involvement with Netflix. We’ve not been turning over the DVDs at all lately, and she never really got into the habit of updating our Netflix movie list. The main reason we signed up was to get HD-DVDs, but since that’s gone now there’s no reason to keep paying.

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