Apple TV has gotten a lot of press since its recent 2.0 upgrade added the ability to rent instant-on movies from all the major studios directly through its onscreen interface. But start-up Vudu--whose set-top box offered all of those features months before Apple's--is still kicking. Just weeks after dropping the price of its entry-level product to $295, the company just rolled out its version 1.3 software, which adds some improved interface and functionality tweaks. Most notably is the "Vudu Vault." The company says that the feature lets users archive some purchased movies (and all purchased TV show episodes) to a "secure area on Vudu servers." In fact, it appears to just flag the title as "owned," so the user can free up space on the Vudu's hard drive for additional downloads, while still being able to stream the "Vaulted" content again at any point in the future. (The Vault feature as well as the interface tweaks were already up and running on our Vudu review sample as of today.)
Two other Vudu announcements of note: the Vudu XL--the $1,000 Vudu announced at CES that packs a 1 terabyte hard drive--is now available to custom installers. Vudu is also making the IR dongle included with the XL model available as an add-on to its existing boxes for $39. With the dongle in place, the Vudu--which includes an RF-only remote--can be controlled with standard universal remotes. (Previously, the company said that the dongle would only work with the XL model, so the wider compatibility will no doubt be welcome news to current Vudu owners.)
A quick scan of Vudu's inventory today listed 5,075 movies--101 of which are in high-def. See our earlier Crave posting to see how that compares with offerings from Apple TV, Xbox Video Marketplace, and Amazon Unbox (available on TiVo). Also of note: Gizmodo's recent video quality shootout between the first three.