Yesterday, Amazon.com went live with their free unlimited instant movie and TV streaming service for Amazon Prime Members ($79.00 a year). Amazon.com’s Unlimited Instant Video service uses Adobe Flash and is compatible with GNU/Linux based operating systems (such and Linux Mint and Ubuntu).
Amazon.com only lists Macintosh and Windows as being compatible but I have tested this on two different Linux Mint 10 (Julia) systems running the latest version of mint-flashplugin and was able to run both standard definition (SD) and high-definition (HD) content without issue. The audio does seem to be currently limited to stereo but both the stereo audio and SD and HD video quality seemed as expected for the given content (given a sufficiently fast Internet connection).
Amazon.com reports having 5,000 movies and TV shows as being currently available. This breaks down to about 2,000 movies and about 500 TV seasons. In addition to these (which are free of charge to Amazon Prime Members) Amazon.com’s Instant Video total catalog boasts some 90,000 movies and TV shows total.
These additional 85,000 movies and television episodes currently require rental or purchase costs of between $2.00 to $15.00. However, I’m going to speculate that at least some of these (as well as additional new content) will slowly become accessible, free of charge, to Amazon Prime Members as Amazon works on expanding this service.
As compared to Netflix’s streaming service which, for their Watch Instantly Unlimited streaming plan, costs $96.00 a year, Amazon.com’s service will save you about $17.00 and allow you to stream movies and television shows on your GNU/Linux based computer (as well as provide free two day shipping, and the other Prime Member benefits).
Amazon.com’s current free offerings seem stronger than what Netflix originally featured for their streaming service (a better mix of new releases, classics, and significantly less B movies). However, with that said, currently it would seem a safe bet that Netflix does still offer more total content (though I have been unable to find any real numbers to back this up).
And despite the arguably larger catalog, and longer service history, Netflix still does not support, and shows no signs of supporting, GNU/Linux based operating systems (such as Ubuntu and Linux Mint).
The technical reason for this, in case you’re not already aware, is that Netflix uses and requires Microsoft’s Silverlight (Moonlight) software with PlayReady DRM plugin to be installed. And despite that the Silverlight software and PlayReady DRM plugin are currently ported to the Microsoft XBOX 360, Sony Playstation 3, Nintendo Wii, various home theater equipment (TV’s, Blu-ray players, DVRS, etc), and even GNU/Linux based devices such as the Roku and BoxeeBox, the PlayReady DRM plugin has yet to be ported to (or rather allowed on) a desktop GNU/Linux based operating system such as Linux Mint or Ubuntu.
As for the why, I’ll leave that to those that wish to speculate, as I simply don’t know (or have evidence to) the exact reason. However, seeing as PlayReady DRM runs on GNU/Linux based devices and dozens of other home theater hardware it would seem it’s neither a technical or resource limitation nor a market driven factor.
So, to put this another way (a financial way), despite being a loyal Netflix customer for several years, I will be immediately switching to Amazon.com’s Prime Unlimited Instant Video service as I see no reason to stick with Netflix when a competing service is already offering support for my preferred operating system. Nor do I hold out any real hope that Neflix will (or be allowed to) offer their streaming service on GNU/Linux based operating systems in the foreseeable future.