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Vudu vs AppleTV - and Moviebeam

Gizmodo and the New York Times weighed in Sunday on the previously stealthy consumer-electronics company Vudu, makers of a nifty-looking box that brings downloadable movies directly to a TV set. The stories emphasized the battle to come between Vudu's device and the AppleTV, but for some reason, neither one mentioned the obvious (and less-than-wildly-successful) precursor, Moviebeam. Like Vudu, Moviebeam's business model involves selling a box that could play movies on demand with little or no delay, with customers paying for each movie they watched. The main difference is that Moviebeam's $150 boxes held a hundred movie files transmitted through the air by a local TV station (refreshed at a rate of 10 per week), while Vudu's box (estimated price: $300) will let users choose from a list of several thousand movies stored online, then download them through their DSL line or cable modem.

Perhaps Vudu's selection (which comes at a price: a much more expensive set-top and higher per-movie charges than Moviebeam levies) will help it blow past its predecessor. But unlike AppleTV (or a DVD player, for that matter), it's a single-purpose device. AppleTV may be dependent on a computer, but at least it acts as a bridge to much of the content trapped there. If you're curious, you can read a few reviews of Moviebeam's service here, here and here.

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Times editorial writer Jon Healey pens opinion pieces about a variety of business issues, and blogs about technologies that are changing the entertainment industry's business model.

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