Oh Look, Another Set-top Box For Streaming Movies

from the heard-this-one-before,-I-think dept

One tech idea that simply won't go away is the set-top box for streaming movies. It's been tried plenty of times before (Netflix, Vudu, Akimbo, Moviebeam, and more) with little success, thanks to technical problems, poor content, bad business models, or some combination of all of them. Each iteration takes a slightly different tack, but the end result usually ends up the same: the dedicated set-top boxes go out with a whimper. Now, there's yet another one coming out, called ZillionTV, with its own take on things. It's the same basic idea: you hook the box up to your TV and your broadband connection, then use it to stream video content. The business model's a little different, though: it will be sold in partnership with ISPs, and users will be able to choose between pay-per-view content without ads, and ad-supported video, including both films and network TV shows. The usual bugbears seem to apply, including worries about the streaming quality and lack of a wide range of content. The ad-supported model, which will be based on targeting ads to users by tracking their viewing habits and other data, is interesting, though TiVo was playing around in a similar space a few years ago and their efforts seem to have gone quiet. What's a bit odd, though, is that the company says the box will cost $100, because "consumers didn't respond as well to free." That's puzzling -- especially if the company really hopes to make its money from advertising. In any case, we definitely won't hold our breath to see if ZillionTV can succeed where so many others have failed.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
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    R. Miles, Mar 5th, 2009 @ 3:44am

    Dear makers of ZillionTV,

    I will not be buying your product, especially if you are going to throw in ads on digital distribution.

    I would be more than willing to pay the $100 for the box, but our objective is to receive the content free, both of cost and of advertising.

    Good luck to your future. You're going to need it, especially competing against torrent sites that offer what I want at no cost to me whatsoever.

    On topic: When will these businesses ever learn? With the XBox 360 and the PS3 (note the exclusion of the Wii here), pushing content seems to be working so I doubt console owners will throw in another box for mediocre crap.

     

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      some old guy, Mar 5th, 2009 @ 3:51am

      Re: Dear makers of ZillionTV,

      Neither Sony nor Microsoft are going to be pushing "free" videos to you.

      And I won't be buying one of those ridiculously expensive consoles either. Neither will 95% of the population, so I don't really see why media companies would care about those at all, there's just not enough market share for them to be relevant.

       

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        R. Miles, Mar 5th, 2009 @ 4:09am

        Re: Re: Dear makers of ZillionTV,

        Neither Sony nor Microsoft are going to be pushing "free" videos to you.
        There's quite a bit of free content available on these consoles.

        But you're correct to say owners won't see licensed content. At least, not until Sony/Microsoft pays the extortion, er, licensing fees to do so.

         

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        shakir, Mar 5th, 2009 @ 10:34am

        Re: Re: Dear makers of ZillionTV,

        there are a lot of free videos accessible through the consoles (hulu.com, netflix, youtube, nbc.com)

        granted that they are simply on the internet, but thats the point, isnt it? that the service being offered here already exists.

        to note -- many many people have bought the ps3 as a bluray player (it is basically the ps3's unique selling proposition).

        the fact that, that one device can pull from the internet repository of videos and provide both services (and a slew of other services), makes me wonder why i would pay $100 for this box.

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2009 @ 3:55am

    i could see this working if the box was free for pay per view movies.

    or as R. Miles suggested free movies no ads (I could even see ppl buying the box for more than $ 100 in such a case).

     

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    Weird Harold, Mar 5th, 2009 @ 4:06am

    It is very unrealistic to assume that someone is going to had you a box for a low price and then pipe you content for free forever without any advertising or other methods to support the programming.

    Attempting to put a business model up against torrent sites (as R Miles does) is insane. The difference between earning a living and robbing little old ladies at gunpoint.

    It's really quite funny to see the unrealistic expectations created by the whole "free" marketing schemes out there.

     

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      R. Miles, Mar 5th, 2009 @ 4:19am

      Re:

      The difference between earning a living and robbing little old ladies at gunpoint.
      Robbing? Crap, you're one of these pathetic idiots who thinks downloading is stealing, aren't you?

      Tell you what, genius. Head over to a torrent site and download anything you want. If you feel bad about taking music, take something you don't feel is copyright.

      Now, close your brower, re-open, and return to the page.

      Guess what you'll find. The same file. It's still there. You didn't steal it. Everyone can still have access to it regardless how many times you copy it.

      Welcome to the world of digital distribution. Low overhead for content distribution.

      Yet companies like Warner Music feel $1 per song is justified.

      Wrong. Not online. Not when it costs them little to distribute. This is about sheer greed.

      And if you think you're going to sit there and call me a thief, you can go screw yourself.

      I'M not the thief here. They are. $1 per song is TRUE PIRACY.

      Sorry you can't get that. A shame, really, as you're the consumer who continues to fuel these businesses dead model.

      Thank you for that. >:(

       

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        Anonymous Poster, Mar 5th, 2009 @ 4:25am

        Re: Re:

        R. Miles, your whole comment made me very happy.

         

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        Weird Harold, Mar 5th, 2009 @ 6:25am

        Re: Re:

        You are making the same mistake that Mike often makes in his posts: You are not thinking to the end of the process. Distribution (digital or otherwise) isn't the main cost in the content. So distribute it any way you like, you haven't changed the price of producing the content. Would you deny artists their right to profit from their work?

        If nobody is paying for content, who can afford to produce it? Right now you are getting your music and movie free ride on the torrents only because enough people are overpaying for the content in other ways.

        Your $1 a song price is in part because a large percentage of total sales are lost because people like you think that the music has not monetary value, and you have no interest in paying for it regardless of the price it is offered at.

        digital distribution is only a method to ship the product, not the removal of cost to create it. When nobody pays for music anymore, there will be no more music produced of the current style and quality level.

        If you want the shiny baubles of life, you have to pay for them. If you aren't paying for them, then you are stealing them. There isn't very many other ways to get them, now is there?

         

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          R. Miles, Mar 5th, 2009 @ 7:28am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Would you deny artists their right to profit from their work?
          I don't deny them one red cent. That's the record label doing that, or have you not paid attention to artist gripes for over 20 years.

          Artists who distribute via a record label isn't going to get my money this way. They'll get it DIRECTLY. And yes, I have done this. Just ask the band Scooter.

          Of that $1 per song the DISTRIBUTOR is charging, much of it isn't going to the artist. Don't sit there and think I'm going to line the pockets of a distributor taking advantage of me.

          Neither should you.

          Your $1 a song price is in part because a large percentage of total sales are lost because people like you think that the music has not monetary value.
          You're absolutely correct. I don't place value on the song. I place value on the performance of the song. HUGE difference.

          Anyone can sing a song. Some are better at it than others. Distributors don't sing, now do they? Instead, they control the market by falsifying the value of the song.

          Let me put it to you this way. Any song by Britney Spears has NO VALUE to me whatsoever. However, a song by Charlotte Church has INFINITE VALUE to me. Why? Because I want one but not the other.

          If Charlotte put out a new album on her website and charged me $1 for the song, I'd buy it in a heartbeat. Because I know ALL OF THAT $1 GOES TO HER.

          But not through her record label when ONLY PENNIES go to her of that $1.

          Screw that. Charlotte's revenues aren't derived from her music. It's from her concerts, which continue to sell out where ever she goes. Never once have I heard her bitching about me copying her music, but I sure do from her record label.

          not the removal of cost to create it.
          "Singing blah blah blah and no topic at all! Fala lee loo do dippity doo!"

          There. I just created a song. It cost me nothing to do it. Sing it, go ahead. I won't sue you. As an artist, if I want this song heard by others, I'm going to give it away for free. I won't charge.

          Why? Because if people like my song, they'll come to my concert. They'll buy my merchandise to be part of the experience. THAT'S where my money will be made, by making ME the scarce good, not a song that can be given away infinitely.

          And one more thing I want to point out: Just how much does it cost to make a song? Let's assume it's $20,000, k? So, wouldn't it make sense that AFTER $20,000, the song is paid for?

          At this point, the song SHOULD be free. Anything over $20,000 is profit, which is used to buy big houses, luxury cars, yachts, etc. The $20,000 obviously will cover the cost of the next song.

          And for you to sit there and tell me I'm stealing from this model is laughable, especially when there's so much money being made, both the ARTIST and the RECORD LABEL can buy big houses, luxury cars, yachts, etc. all the while YOUR wallet dwindles paying $1 per song.

          Tell me again why I'm the pirate? I'd love to hear this.

           

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          chris (profile), Mar 5th, 2009 @ 8:48am

          Re: Re: Re:

          You are making the same mistake that Mike often makes in his posts: You are not thinking to the end of the process. Distribution (digital or otherwise) isn't the main cost in the content. So distribute it any way you like, you haven't changed the price of producing the content. Would you deny artists their right to profit from their work?

          and you are making the same mistake that all content producers make: the cost of production is fixed and has no impact on price.

          the market decides the price it will pay without regard for your fixed costs. you can't just make up numbers to charge and expect success. if you price yourself out of the market, you fail.

          the going rate for content online is nothing. you can either sell at that price and have a chance at succeeding or charge more and be guaranteed to fail.

          profit is a privilege, not a right. if you want to be guaranteed a profit, then don't make content, get a real job and put your money in a savings account.

          show business it risky, that's why everyone's parents tried to talk them out of doing it.

          a great way to increase profits is to cut your fixed costs. if a movie costs $200 million to produce and promote, then it has to do $200 million in sales to break even. cutting costs means the film has to do far less in sales to turn a profit.

          If nobody is paying for content, who can afford to produce it?

          there are plenty of people out there that give their content away and make money. penny arcade is a great example. new comics and other downloadable content every week for free, and they are not only able to make money, but they can raise and donate millions to charity every year.

          Right now you are getting your music and movie free ride on the torrents only because enough people are overpaying for the content in other ways.

          torrents give the market what it wants: decent quality, ultra low price, freedom, usability, and plenty of choice.

          if you want to make money provide something that the torrents can't: convenience, speed, longevity, etc.

          Your $1 a song price is in part because a large percentage of total sales are lost because people like you think that the music has not monetary value, and you have no interest in paying for it regardless of the price it is offered at.

          paying for songs? hell no. i won't pay for songs, movies, or plastic discs. i will, however, pay for merchandise. i have never purchased an mc frontalot or mc chris cd or a single track, but i have t-shirts for both. i have never purchased a penny arcade or megatokyo comic or book, but i have quite a few t-shirts. the same is true for linux and bsd software.

          digital distribution is only a method to ship the product, not the removal of cost to create it.

          no one gives a rat's ass about your costs. your costs are not anyone's problem but your own. no one cares how much it costs for GM to make a car, no one cares how much it costs mcdonald's to make a cheeseburger. all we care about is convenience, quality, and price.

          the sooner you figure out that fixed costs are your problem, and not the consumers', the sooner you will have a chance at succeeding.

          if you want to see people paying for access to free content, take a look at newsgroup services. the content is free, but people pay monthly fees to get it quickly and conveniently.

          i would pay for a service that helped me find quality digital content quickly AND recommended new content ala the netflix/amazon recommendation system AND kept me from being hassled by the content compaines. getting my internet access shut off due to a DMCA letter is an inconvenience, not a deterrent, since my provider just switches me back on again.

          When nobody pays for music anymore, there will be no more music produced of the current style and quality level.

          first off, the current style and quality is total crap.

          all the music i pirate is back catalog stuff that has been sold on probably two formats already and may or may not be available for sale anymore. those songs are paid for several times over.

          as for new music, i really only listen to independent and underground music that really isn't all that mainstream and most of the time the internet is the only way those artists can distribute and promote their music.

          the current state of popular music is dreadful. all the pop stars in the world could die in a fire and i wouldn't care in the slightest.

          when it comes to piracy of music, the labels have themselves to blame. they wanted everyone in the world to listen to and buy a small selection of music so they can save money on the manufacture and promotion of their stars.

          congratulations! good job! thanks to the record labels and radio conglomerates there are only 40 hit songs in circulation now. your generic music is universal now, which makes pirating it a breeze.

          why not inject a whole lot of variety into your pablum?

          why not diversify your offerings? why not make music that has cult followings rather than universal appeal? that seems to have worked for the grateful dead.

          if you can build a community or a cult around your acts, you are going to see more purchases of merchandise and tickets to events by fanatical fans.

          also, if the top40 or the itunes top100 was more like the top ten thousand or the top one million then it would be a lot harder for piracy to reach critical mass because of the sheer volume of music that was available.

           

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          chris (profile), Mar 5th, 2009 @ 8:56am

          Re: Re: Re:

          If you want the shiny baubles of life, you have to pay for them. If you aren't paying for them, then you are stealing them. There isn't very many other ways to get them, now is there?

          music and movies aren't shiny baubles. they are things which are experienced.

          if you are in the bauble business, where you are making and selling baubles, and someone takes one, then you are out one bauble. if you want to use or sell that bauble you need to either get it back from the person that took it or create or buy another.

          a digital copy of song or movie cannot be stolen. it can be distributed without your authorization, but that is not the same thing as stealing because you still have your original to use or sell or whatever.

           

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        another mike, Mar 5th, 2009 @ 10:52am

        Re: Re:

        THIS. So very much This. Please for the love of all that is kind and virtuous in the universe, repost R. Miles' comment everywhere on the internet.

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2009 @ 4:54am

      Re:

      It's really quite funny to see the unrealistic expectations created by the whole "free" marketing schemes out there.

      Actually the reason I don't use torrent sites is due to hassle. It's a hassle for me to obtain torrents. I have an SD TV and the cpu hooked to it is simply a pain to look at. I guess I could set up a system to auto-download the shows I want, but again, hassle. Maybe I could download it on my laptop and ftp it? But hassle.

      Or I can watch a minute or two of commercials on hulu. The subscription feature keeps up with what shows I like. I setup one icon shortcut to the hulu queue and I'm all set.

      So that's the difference in business models. Torrents are a hassle for me, streams with advertising aren't. I look at the ads I watch as buying convenience my wife can use. It's nice if they pay for the content too.

      I'm also open to having ads in my content. Suddenly, torrents are free advertising, and the fact that a show gets downloaded 1,000,000 times is a credit and not a negative.

      You see my job isn't figuring out how to monetize my attention. My job is to demand things be as cheap, convenient, and high quality as they can be. If we don't demand that, then the population is wasting time and money on inefficiency.

       

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        Steven, Mar 5th, 2009 @ 5:37am

        Re: Re:

        You should check out Miro. It's bittorrent client/video player/rss feed reader/video guide...

        Really a nice piece of software. Thousands of 'channels' where each channel is more like a show.

        Add to that tvrss.net and/or rss feeds from piratebay (or similar sites) and you'll always have the latest episodes of whatever you want to watch (tv shows, internet broadcasts, even youtube searches) waiting for you.

        It hooks up to several video sites, but unfortunately I don't think hulu is one of them.

         

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        Ed, Mar 5th, 2009 @ 7:33am

        Hulu

        Hulu is great, and maybe it is the way of the future for copyrighted material.

        But they need a lot more channels on there. Now it is only NBC and Fox I think. Discovery, History, News channels all in one place. Let Youtube be for community and hulu for corporate.

        And they need to keep stuff up. Why ever take something down? You still get ad money if I watch old Brady Bunch crap!

         

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    Ima Fish, Mar 5th, 2009 @ 5:20am

    "consumers didn't respond as well to free."

    Let me get this straight. The movie industry, the music industry, and the newspaper industry all claim that "you can't compete with free."

    Now ZillionTV is telling us that people do not want free. And when faced with a choice between free and paying $100, they'll buy the one costing $100?!

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2009 @ 5:47am

      Re:

      Do you understand what an inferior product is? No you don't, because you read Mike's crappy blog. You think you know, but he just twist economics to make himself sound right.

       

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        Ima Fish, Mar 5th, 2009 @ 6:13am

        Re: Re:

        "Do you understand what an inferior product is?"

        Yes, I do. An inferior product would be one with lower quality and/or lacking features of a comparable product.

        "No you don't, because you read Mike's crappy blog."

        And yet you read it too, so that must mean that you also don't know, right?

        "You think you know, but he just twist economics to make himself sound right."

        Let's twist again, like we did last summer...

         

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      Phillip Vector, Mar 5th, 2009 @ 8:39am

      Re:

      "Now ZillionTV is telling us that people do not want free. And when faced with a choice between free and paying $100, they'll buy the one costing $100?!"

      In a weird way, I can understand this. People attached money to quality.

      I work as a web developer. I used to charge people $10/hr. for my work. It was really good and people complimented me on it often, but I didn't get many clients.

      I boosted my price up to more of what I deserve with my experience. $50/hr. People flocked around me trying to get my services.

      Why? Because someone charging $10 must be terrible and not at all skilled. Someone charging $50 must know what he's doing to charge that much. It's an incorrect step in logic, but one people make all the time.

       

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    James (profile), Mar 5th, 2009 @ 5:28am

    yet another?

    You mean "Yet another box to hook to my tv". i have an Xbox 360, a media PC and my Uverse box. How many more do I want to add to the mix? None. I am out of HDMI ports on my receiver and that is all I use. No HDMI, no joy at my house.

     

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    Another old Guy, Mar 5th, 2009 @ 5:57am

    I like free

    Consumers don't respond well to free BS we all like free it said get rid of your cable box who are we connected to for ISP morons hello the cable company. I have an Archos 605 I can go to the internet I can stream video I can surf the net from the big screen just can't do it hidef. It is also a DVR and a GPS.

     

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    Another old Guy, Mar 5th, 2009 @ 5:58am

    I like free

    Consumers don't respond well to free BS we all like free it said get rid of your cable box who are we connected to for ISP morons hello the cable company. I have an Archos 605 I can go to the internet I can stream video I can surf the net from the big screen just can't do it hidef. It is also a DVR and a GPS.

     

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    Jester, Mar 5th, 2009 @ 6:22am

    95%

    To the idiot who thinks 95% of the population won't buy a next-gen console the penetration rate is already well over 5% of the population.

    http://news.softpedia.com/news/72-of-US-Population-Plays-Games-82413.shtml

    Read that article

     

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    ChasW, Mar 5th, 2009 @ 6:28am

    Got all I need

    I like my XBOX360. I can download movies and TV shows from XBox Live, or I can stream them with my Netflix account. I can watch movies, listen to music, and look through photo albums that I have on my computer via wireless network connection. I can plop DVDs into it and watch them. I can plop CDs and listen to music from them. Oh, and I can play video games. ;)

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2009 @ 6:54am

    I can see/hear it now. someone pays $100, and BAMM! Lawsuits and failed buisness model .......

    $100 Paper weight

     

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    Rafael Cortes, Mar 5th, 2009 @ 8:02am

    This is how to sell this...

    I have an idea that will more than likely be the only way for this to work, INTEGRATION! I should patent this... but here goes as an open source idea LOL: Put the inner works of this box inside a good quality LCD TV Set, as just another feature of the TV... then you can stream free Ad Supported content (people paid for the TV set, not content) and sell a subscription or pay per view, ad free for the people with this type of TV sets... make "Conversion Boxes" later to turn non-stream enabled TVs into stream enabled ones ;) What do you think? If someone make this, give me some credit and/or money LOL.

     

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    1812lsd, Mar 5th, 2009 @ 8:38am

    New set top box released.

    Sony releases new stupid piece of shit! http://www.theonion.com/content/node/93143

     

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    Steve, Mar 5th, 2009 @ 9:36am

    "Each iteration takes a slightly different tack, but the end result usually ends up the same: the dedicated set-top boxes go out with a whimper."

    Moviebeam, yah, has definately nevef worked, but I don't see Roku's Netflix player going away anytime soon.

    Sure, the problem is that Hollywood is sticking their head in the sand and not letting anyone watch their entire library, but that's bound to change sooner or later.

    I just got my Amazon update on my Roku last night, and while I won't buy rent anything because of the short viewing window, I was really impressed by how much the catalog had expanded since I checked it last time.

    Call me optimistic, but I think its just a matter of time before we'll see more content available elsewhere.

     

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    The Happy Infidel, Mar 5th, 2009 @ 12:47pm

    What (I think) a lot of (families) want.

    Here's what I want:

    No monthly fee.
    $3-$5/movie. $1-$2/TV show.
    *All* movies, TV shows available
    Full HDTV (1080p).
    Partial download, then stream. (No wait, no stop-and-go).

    It's the *all* part (going back decades) that I want most of all because that will let me pick in choose worthwhile things for my kids to watch. For instance, the (original) BBC "Connections" series by James Burke or, say, Carl Sagan's "Cosmos" episodes are good examples. I can't put up w/ the stuff on Discovery/TLC -- com'on American Chopper?

     

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      chris (profile), Mar 5th, 2009 @ 6:12pm

      Re: What (I think) a lot of (families) want.

      it'll never happen.

      there are too many regional hoops to jump thru, too many studios have to agree, too many lawyers and too many people that will want their share.

      now, if you were willing to pay $500 a month, or say buy the box for $15,000 then that would be a different story.

       

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    Rob, Mar 5th, 2009 @ 3:03pm

    Video On Demand

    Here's what I want: a $100 box and a small month fee that lets me watch movies on demand. Sounds like Netflix/Roku and it works just fine.

    I agree with your position on most things but I think your statement about "with little success" is wrong. I think you just wish it were true because it fits your idea about how the world is supposed to be. This kind of undermines my opinion of this blog.

     

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    DirtyTech, Mar 5th, 2009 @ 10:49pm

    It's a Bad Business Model

    I've come to notice something about Tech Dirt. Everything is a "Bad Business Model", has anyone had a good one? Seriously, let the market decide, not the judgement of commentators.

     

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    Dan, Mar 6th, 2009 @ 12:27am

    I already have a VCR, DVD player and a computer. If they can't figure some way to deliver their content to one of those devices they will not be on my vendor list. The same can be said for e readers, music delivery,games or other proprietary devices and formats. You will have to sell your koolaid to some dork that can't continue living without it, I hate koolaid.

     

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