God of Biscuits’ vudu

I’ve written before about the vudu box I obtained through their Evangelist program. Up until a few days ago, nearly all of the content was SD (standard definition, DVD-quality stuff). To inaugurate HD content to their library, they surprised us all by pushing down the first two Bourne movies in HD without telling us, followed by a “Tah Dah!”

It was classy. And an savvy demonstration of the value-add of the internet. I’m pretty damned techie, and even I was taught a bit of something. That was the genius in it: they exploited the internet connectivity by elevating its exploitability. Does that make any sense?

The history of technology can be described, from a certain perspective, as a steady increase in complexity which is best utilized by providing simplicity to humans: to hide the complexity! And the front end, the user-facing end, keeps floating to the top, hiding more and more piled up complexity behind every increasingly abstract and illusory—and realistic! neat trick!—simplicity.

Unless you’re a User Experience expert, you’ll have absolutely no idea how difficult it is to create an illusion and maintain it without fail for a user trying to accomplish a task. And as I’ve said before, vudu is a box and a (very sexy!) remote:

  1. Switch the input source on your HDTV or home theater receiver.
  2. Search, browse, save as favorites
  3. Buy or rent a title
  4. Start watching immediately

It’s as simple as that. Even HD titles start instantly (which makes me suspect that they push down 1% or so of each HD title and store it on its HDD.

That continues to be the one sour note in the whole vudu song: it’s a P2P network, and as such, and with the amount of bandwidth that the box is consuming being opaque, it makes me worry how much traffic is going in and out of the house.

The closed nature of the box—and no, not in the same way that Macs were closed way back when—is a huge disappointment, however: I have no idea how much disk space I have left except to estimate the three HD titles that live permanently on the box. I could guess that each hour is about 1.1 GB or so, so maybe half the disk is already filled.

As I continue to use the vudu box, the more I notice how isolated the box is from the rest of the home theater system.

And now that the Apple TV provides direct movie rentals and streams music and video and photos from my iTunes Library, and connects to flickr and now acts as an AirTunes client…

Well, you can see where this is all going…