June 23, 2011

YouTube, Android Offer Alternative to iTunes Film Rentals

One of the new product announcements at Google IO in May was the introduction of movie rentals from the Android Market. Following the path beaten by Apple with its iTunes and Apple TV pairing, popular movie rentals can be picked up for the typical price of $2.99 or $3.99 each, are watchable in the next month and playable for 24 hours after you start. It's familiar, but new for Google, who added the option to their marketplace a month ago, making one less reason one has to be shackled to iTunes. The video rental service is powered by YouTube, who has clearly shown they know how to push Web video content to hundreds of millions of homes worldwide, and is ready to try longer-length content.

As mentioned frequently here, I've been a longtime iTunes user, and have slowly migrated away from the platform, thanks to increased use of Spotify and Google Music on one side, NOOK on the other, and now, movies, by way of Android Market, on top of Netflix Instant. The focus is not so much an anti-Apple vendetta, but just finding new ways to consume rich media on my changing array of devices. The more Android and Chrome I have in my house, the less iTunes is an option - until Apple changes its mind.

Some Top Titles On Android Market (Powered by YouTube)

The promise of the Android Market offering is to play these movies right in your Web browser, on any of your Google account-enabled devices. There's no need to download the movie (as iTunes does), but you instead start streaming after an extremely minimal amount of buffering, at either 320p or 480p. Purchases are sent to the account you have registered with Google Checkout, and the item shows in your Android Market purchase history. All straight forward.

Streaming "Just Go With It" On Chrome Via Android Market

In the last two days, I pulled down Adam Sandler's romantic comedy "Just Go With It" and Vince Vaughn's "The Dilemma". Both $3.99, I can play these videos on the Web (and even Google TV's Chrome App) and expand to full screen. In our on demand world, the experience is on par with Apple TV or Netflix Instant, and your service preference depends on the device you're using or the title you want. Using the Android Market interface is actually just a front end for YouTube's full-length feature movie rentals (see all of them here), including films like The Hangover, Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, The King's Speech, Knocked Up and many others. It's yet another example of Google trying to push to the browser what traditionally has been handled with desktop client software.

YouTube Reminds Me to Watch The Movie I Rented

My Rented Films Visible on YouTube

I tested the video rentals on my Mac, in both Chrome and Safari and on the CR-48, as well as on Google TV. Essentially, if the app can play YouTube videos and you can sign in with you're Google credentials, you're good to go.

My Receipt Delivered Via Email, Like Any Other Google Checkout Purchase

At Google I/O, it was promised that ChromeOS (and these rentals specifically) would bring more offline access for those outside of broadband streaming. I assume those will come soon, to solve for the poor souls stuck on airplanes who still want access, and might still be going to Apple to shell out three or four bucks at a time.

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