The biggest problem with Netflix is that movies cannot be downloaded—only streamed. For city slickers used to underground subway rides or travelers racking up frequent flyer miles, that's a huge headache: no reception means no Netflix. At the same time, the biggest problem with iTunes is that movies can only be downloaded—and not streamed. For those looking to watch movies instantly on the go on a variety of devices, this can be quite a pain: gigabyte-size space requirements, long download times, and the hassle of transferring content from gadget to gadget.
Today, at Google's I/O conference, the search giant launched a movie rental service in its Android Marketplace which addresses some of these core consumer frustrations with Netflix and iTunes. The solution, as Google explained Tuesday, is in the cloud.
Rather than restrict users from either streaming or downloading content, Google's rental service offers the best of both worlds. Once a film is rented—prices start at $1.99 for the thousands of titles in its library—it is made available across all Android-based devices instantly—tablets, smartphones, and on your computer. There's no need to worry about syncing multiple devices or limited transfers: Just as you might stop watching a Netflix movie on your iPod Touch only to resume it on your Wii, Android's service offers a seamless viewing experience (so long as you're accustomed to using Android devices such as the Xoom).
"But you can't always stream videos live in the cloud," pointed out a Google rep today. Indeed, as the spokesperson said, what if you're on an airplane and don't have access to Internet? For this, Google offers a feature called "pinning," which allows users to select movies to be downloaded automatically and stored natively on the device. So when you're on your way to JFK, you can pause streaming content in the cab, download the film in the background, and resume watching once in the air.
Of course, this isn't to say Android's business model is better than Apple's or Netflix's. The services use different styles—subscription vs. pay-per-view—and user preferences vary based on interests in either lower prices or newer content.
What we're talking about here is not the business model but the delivery model: how we gain access to content we've purchased or subscribed to. In this instance, it seems Google has found a way to one-up its competitors.
[Image: Flickr user Joyce Pedersen (addict2pics)]