Will You Vudu?

[qi:032] The Internet Video download boxes are dime a dozen (or so it seems.) Not a day passes by when a start-up promises to deliver a box that would change our life. Well, not one of them has thus far changed our video watching lives. There are half a dozen start-ups that are building Internet video download set-top boxes of some sort. I remain pessimistic about the chances of such standalone video boxes. A weather man would describe this entire market as “cloudy” with occasional breaks of sunshine.

Steve Jobs and Apple (APPL) launched Apple TV with much fanfare, before calling it a “hobby.” It is MIA at Apple stores. Today, Vudu, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based start-up backed by Greylock Ventures and Benchmark Capital, launched its download box (expected to go on sale by end of this month,) hoping that it can out Apple, Apple in the download-video device business. The company is offering about 5,000 movies either for rental ($0.99 – $3.99) or purchase ($4.99 – $19.99.)

It has received mixed reviews. In a previous post I had expressed my extreme skepticism at the company and their claims. Since then got a demo in a “company controlled” environment, and was mildly impressed by the quality of the video and the interface. But without actual review it didn’t make sense at the time to write about the device.

Michael Wolf, an analyst for ABI Research has been one of the handful who got a chance to play with Vudu, offered to contribute his impressions of Vudu (posted over on NewTeeVee). He thinks it is one of the better options out there. David Pogue of The New York Times points out that the catalog of titles available and timing of movie availability is going to be a challenge for the company.

Vudu, as I see it has two challenges. First, getting folks to upgrade from their more predictable (and affordable) DVD watching habits. Second one is even harder: surviving Hollywood. That’s like sleeping in the same bed with rattle snake: good luck guys.

PS: Are you likely to give Vudu (or any such device) a try?