Vongo Thoughts


So I tried out Vongo last night (since I was using Windows, I could do that... hey, wow, cool!) and I have to say that it's pretty neat. The UI is Flash based, but useful and not obnoxious, the signup was quick, the browsing was good, the previews came up quickly (Flash Media rocks), the streaming video was cool to watch, and the downloads worked instantly and like they should. In short I think it's a winner, though it definitely has some first generation issues, which I'll explain below.

Conceptually, I think the idea of paying a monthly fee and getting to choose from 1000+ movies is what those of us in the "cable generation" consider "normal." Unlike iTunes' $2 per television episode, this fits much more naturally in how I regularly consume video content. Yes, I was just raving about iTunes video and there's a reason for that: buying video that is pre-made for your portable player is still MUCH more convenient than recording a program to TiVo (or ripping a DVD), copying it to your PC (in real time) and converting it ever so slowly for your mobile device. But still, the cost starts to become a bit much after a while. I know I personally spent $20 or so on videos at first (only $2!!) but then started to get a little wary after a bit (wow, $2!?!).

This is where the Vongo service is so much more reasonable. I signed up to the service last night and within moments was browsing a bunch of really good movies to view. I decided to try out The Incredibles (which, ironically isn't available on Apple's store...) and because I already paid my $10 for the month, there was no charge for the download. I was able to choose "PC" or "Portable" formats and the downloading began immediately. I could start viewing the PC download within 30 seconds (just like with other downloadable movie sites), or I could watch streaming Starz cable TV. Sadly, the portable download didn't work on my ZVue (with its updated DRM-enabled firmware) and like Michael Gartenberg said I'm not sure which portable players Vongo is going to support, actually. But once the supported devices start showing up (and since it's using Windows Media, I have no doubt there will be many), this will be a cool system. (I read that Vongo is going to be working with Sony to make video available on their Connect site for the PSPs. When that happens, this system will *really* rock.)

The other problem besides the lack of portable players is that it the downloaded content doesn't play nice with my new Media Center PC!! I thought that like MovieLink or CinemaNow, the content that I downloaded would be viewable with the WMC interface - and thus streamable through the XBox 360 or other Windows Media Extender, but it doesn't look like that's the case. I couldn't view the movie outside of the Vongo UI. That needs to be worked on, not because I'm that excited about the Media Center stuff, but just because of interop in general. People don't mind DRM, as long as it just works on their stuff.

There's going to be a ton of mobile video announcements at CES - I think this is a good start. If I were a betting man, I'd say that Apple will introduce a subscription service of some kind next week as well. There's going to be too much pressure not to...


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