August 18, 2006 12:33 PM PDT
Is this the new Amazon video store?
Web pages that first surfaced at Kokogiak.com, titled "Amazon Digital Video" seem to indicate that the company's new store will provide support for Windows-enabled handheld devices, offer movies that customers can buy or rent, and require a software download before watching films.
CNET News.com was unable to confirm for certain that the screenshots are of a real Amazon store. When asked whether the video store found on the Web was legitimate, an Amazon representative issued an e-mail response: "We don't talk about what we might or might not do in the future."
Some of the pages began disappearing from the Web after Amazon was contacted about them.
Alan Taylor, who operates Kokogiak.com, said he worked for Amazon up until two years ago but had nothing to do with a video store while employed by the Seattle-based e-tailer. Taylor said in a phone interview that he simply read reports last month that Amazon was planning to launch a video store and began searching the Web. Taylor discovered some obscure "back doors" and he was in, he said.
"They put the data out there without having it ready," said Taylor, a Boston-based Web developer. "The lesson is to not put anything out on a public site. Obscure URLs don't do anything. Google will find a way to crawl it."
Rumors have circulated for months that Amazon was preparing to make a foray into video downloads. The e-tailer's site was once the top spot on the Web to buy music and videos, but Apple Computer's iTunes store has seized much of the glory since it began offering digital music for download. No longer did online shoppers have to wait for their CDs to arrive by mail. They could buy a song or album from Apple and start listening immediately.
And Apple has jumped to a head start in online video. More than 35 million video downloads have been purchased at iTunes. What Apple doesn't have yet--though the company is reportedly getting ready to launch its own movie store--is full-length features. Amazon's Web store will carry a full array of TV shows, learning videos and motion pictures, according to the Web pages found Friday. Besides TV shows, Amazon will feature an array of feature films.
To this point, digital movies have yet to attract a large audience. It takes hours in some cases for a film to be fully downloaded, and the quality isn't any better than a DVD, even though the costs are often the same.
Hollywood is eager to see how Amazon fares at selling downloadable films, an entertainment executive said last month. Unlike the companies that have already begun distributing digital movies, Amazon has a long track record of selling videos online.
If indeed the Web store found by Taylor is a prototype of Amazon's video outlet, the company plans to enable customers to download content to a handheld device. On a Frequently Asked Questions page, Amazon responds to a question about whether someone with a Creative Zen Vision music player can watch content on the device.
"If your device is on the list of supported devices," the response says.
Amazon video customers may also be able to burn movies to DVD. The rub is that they won't be able to watch them on a DVD player.
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