10/25 Update… Price dropped from $400-250 for only 1 day I am told.
It was a about 6 months ago I read David Pogue’s New York Times article about the soon to be released Vudu Box. For months I eagerly awaited the release of the Vudu, a small box that allows you to watch over 5000 movies with just a click of a button.
This past month Vudu officially started shipping their small box (about the size of a dictionary) with the first wave of pre-orders reaching their destinations over the past couple weeks. It’s my belief that this great product could revolutionize the movie rental industry as consumers will now have the option to watch “the right movie, right now”, only requiring a fast internet connection. Convenience doesn’t come cheap though as a box will set you back $400, with movies running $1-5 with an option to buy movies for what seemed like lesser than DVD prices.
$400 seemed a little steep, especially for never have seen one of the Vudu Boxes. Luckily for me, Vudu is a Silicon Valley company who is happy enough to give you a demo if you stop by. With HD content right around the corner (currently their titles are better than DVD quality because Vudu scales up the resolution ) and the ability to use a wireless bridge, I took up the Vudu demo offer that was extended my way.
After speaking with some members from the Customer Care team, I was in the official Vudu demo room which consists of a flat screen a couple of comfy chairs and the smallish box that I had read so much about. The demo mainly consisted of me playing with the remote while trying not to drool on it as I basked in all the glory that was Vudu. Below are some of my initial impressions.
– Remote A+
Its a freaking 4 button remote that includes a Blackberry like wheel that also can be clicked. In a nutshell this thing is so easy to use that I am confident that both of my parents could easily utilize Vudu without needing to consult me for tech support. Took me less than a minute to be confident and proficient with the remote. Simple is better and they nailed it.
– User Interface A
There is a button similar to the Iphone home button, that allows you to go to the Vudu home screen if you wander too far. Movies can be searched by title, genre, actor, director and be sorted by alphabetical order, imdb ranking (huge plus), as well as release date.
The UI is sharp, simple, elegant, and clean. Movie posters and images are on almost every screen with information on each movie within Vudu’s library. When you select a certain title the screen consists of a short description, some movie artwork, pricing information on the title, as well as pictures of the director and main actors. You are then able to browse the directors and actors other titles in addition to selecting movies that are deemed very close to your selected title.
The bottom line is that its easy to find titles that you want to watch. Its just as easy to browse through the library to select a title that fits your taste and mood.
Picture quality and download B+
Vudu movies use a hybrid system of ensuring your movie can play from start to finish without any interruption or buffering. Depending on your connection speed, movies play within 5 seconds of being selected and usually are fully downloaded in 10-20 minutes. Of course this will change once Vudu releases HD titles which is believed to be right around the corner but I am confident the Vudu guys have the speed and technology to overcome the fat media file size that comes from HD Content.
Although there is no HD content at this point, all movies are DVD quality and in fact better. Vudu upscales movies if you utilize the HDMI output to your HD TV. With HD content right around the corner in addition to the likely addition of External storage to build your Vudu collection, I signed on the dotted line and ordered Vudu shortly after seeing this great product.
My take on Vudu
The product is awesome but how are Vudu’s prospects as a company? I did a case study on Tivo’s initial launch and see some of the same hurdles Tivo had to overcome in Vudu’s way. Vudu is an unknown entity at this point and has limited distribution (only Magnolia is signed on as a retail distributor) and will have to earn the business of consumer electronic early adopters before making deep inroads in the massive market of movie watchers who have high speed internet connections.
However I think Vudu is on the right track to overcome these hurdles. First off if anyone benefits from the Blu-Ray vs DVD-HD format war, its got to be Vudu. This Christmas consumers can choose between
a) a HD Blu Ray player that costs $400 and up that has a 60% chance of becoming the HD format of the future
b) a HD DVD player that costs $300 and up that has a 40% chacnce of becoming the HD format of the future.
C) a Vudu box that costs $400 that can deliever 5000 movies with just one click (deals with all major studios with more movies being added every week)
Of course I opted for option C as I am confident the Vudu team will get the word out to the masses. They are confident they got a winner and let the product win me over rather than giving me a sales pitch during the demo.
From a marketing perspective I think it would be interesting to see Vudu in high end hotels like the W or Hotel Nikko as this is light years ahead of anything that one would find as a hotel pay per view system. More mainstream distribution is also a must but I am sure its in the works as the concept of Slingbox was sold to retailers, and I think Vudu has a superior product that will be in higher demand. I would also stress product marketing similar to the Iphone where product functionality and ease of use is articulated as people need to know exactly what Vudu does and how easy it is to use. It would also be funny to see marketing campaigns aimed to show the social situations where Vudu can be a life saver. For instance ads showing
a) the age old ploy to get a girl to come over to watch a movie after a night of partying. “What movie?” “I got Vudu”…. and they lived happily ever after at least for that night.
b) A boyfriend on the verge of getting killed for renting Robocop for their anniversary.”Got Vudu”
C) a sudden urge to watch a movie, but wait….. the rental store is closed because it’s too late.
You could even show off these type of videos in the advertisements in theaters right before the previews.
So with all that I am anxiously waiting my own Vudu box and will be back to report my initial reaction to the small box that will likely transition my bar tab to my Vudu tab, so in that regard this might even be considered a healthy purchase.