One of the most hyped ideas of the past several years has been movie downloads. It sounds like such a no-brainer, in theory: replace trips to the video store with the ease of choosing a movie from a limitless library and having it digitially delivered to your home, quickly and cheaply. Of course, in practice, download sites and services tend to pretty much uniformly suck, largely thanks to movie studios that put pointless anti-piracy worries above everything else. What's been most remarkable about this space is to see how little it's changed. The first efforts got panned for their limited offerings and poor usability five years ago, and little has changed since. Still, every year or so, some major publication checks in on these sites and discovers, yup, they're still terrible. Last May, it was the Washington Post's turn; this time around, it's the New York Times figuring out that things really haven't improved much. It says the Xbox 360 provides a relatively good experience, but suffers from a limited catalog of just 165 films, and adds that $400 is a lot to spend on a box just to watch movies. Apparently, though, $300 is just fine, as the article labels Vudu -- the recipient of fantastic NYT puff piece a few months ago -- "one upstart to keep an eye on." The overarching theme of the article is that movie-download services have been high on promise but haven't delivered, which is the same thing the market's been saying for five years now. Until movie studios give up their hard-headed insistence that they're on the right path, movie downloads will continue to be a missed opportunity.
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