The new features are part of an upgrade of the online movie retailer's Media Manager software, which was released on Wednesday. The proprietary application enables the download, management, and playback of video from a PC, and ensures copyright protection. The software only works with Internet Explorer.
CinemaNow can now use the Xbox as another bridge to a home television. The Media Manager upgrade can detect an Xbox on a home network, and upload a video from a PC for playback on a TV. The service reflects the company's strategy of giving customers the option of choosing from multiple platforms to watch movie downloads -- from PCs to portable devices to TVs.
The Windows Vista support makes it possible to download a video and then burn it to DVD for playback through a standard DVD player. This option is an important feature for movie download services, which need to make it as easy as possible for customers to watch a video on their TVs, experts say.
Other devices that CinemaNow supports include wireless portable media players (PMPs) from Archos, a French portable electronics company. Users can download CinemaNow videos wirelessly to their PMPs for playback on the device or on a TV. While Archos support is a step in the right direction, CinemaNow's service doesn't support Apple's iPod, the leading portable media player in the market.
CinemaNow also has integrated its service with Hewlett-Packard's upcoming line of MediaSmart LCD TVs. The new systems connect to a buyer's home network either wired or wirelessly, so users can purchase or rent a movie from CinemaNow through their remote controls, download the file to a designated hard drive, and then watch the video on the MediaSmart TV.
Despite the added flexibility to its service, CinemaNow's movie library remains limited to about 7,000 feature-length films, a small percent of Hollywood's total movie library, and it lacks many of the blockbusters. Far fewer movies, and no recent blockbusters, are available on its burn-to-DVD service. Movie studios have been reluctant to release major movies online for burning to DVD to avoid angering retailers.
Forrester Research has predicted that the paid video download market in its current state will become extinct as TV and cable networks shift the bulk of paid downloading to ad-supported streams. Paid video download companies CinemaNow and Movielink are expected to shift to providing satellite and telco service providers with video-on-demand content, according to Forrester.