Downloadable video-on-demand content is available through standalone products like
the Apple TV, Xbox 360, VUDU Box, and some TiVo
DVRs. Most cable and satellite providers offer VOD content as
well. With these services, you often have the option to buy or rent a title, paying a fee per title. A digital copy of the
film or TV show is actually downloaded to your set-top box.
This means the set-top box must have a hard drive on which to store the file, as well as some type of network connection.
The speed of the download depends on the speed of that network connection; obviously, HD
files are much bigger than SD (std def) files and require more hard drive space and longer download times. Many of these services
have a progressive download function that allows you to start watching the show before the download is fully complete, but
you still have to wait until enough of the file is downloaded to successfully view it without interruption (the waiting time
depends on your connection speed).
If you've rented the title, it will be deleted from your hard drive 24 hours
after you start watching it. If you've purchased the title, it will remain available on the hard drive until you choose to
delete it. In some cases, as with Apple TV, you may also be able to view the content on secondary playback devices, like computers
or iPods, but rarely can
you burn the file to a physical disc.
On the streaming side, Netflix, Amazon, VUDU
and CinemaNow have all partnered with manufacturers to offer streaming platforms, wherein content
is streamed from the provider's server over your network connection to a playback device, be it a TV, Blu-ray
player, or other set-top box. Since the content is being streamed and not downloaded, the destination device does not need
a hard drive for storage (that's why these services can work directly through a TV), but you must maintain the network connection
Since you need not wait for the file to download, you can start watching it immediately,
yet you can still pause, rewind, and fast-forward, just as you can with a downloaded title. Netflix
subscribers with an unlimited plan have unlimited access to the "Watch Instantly" library and can watch any title
as often as they desire. The Amazon, CinemaNow and VUDU streaming
platforms may allow for rental or purchase and charge a fee per title, usually with a time restriction of 24 hours to watch
a rental. Purchased titles are stored remotely in Cloud server that you can access at any time.
The deal for a streaming service's immediacy
is that image quality may not be as good as you can get from a download, depending on how fast your network connection is.
(Neither option looks as good as Blu-ray for HD titles, although
VUDU's new HDX 1080p downloads offer higher quality.)
With a download platform, your network speed only affects the time it takes to download the
title. On the other hand, a streaming service must evaluate your connection speed and adjust the compression
level to a point that enables it to sustain continuous playback. The slower your connection speed, the worse the picture looks.
Netflix, for example, requires 1.5 Mbps for its streaming service
and recommends at least 3 Mbps (AND....five Mbps for HD
a high-speed Internet access, either a download or streaming platform funtion very good...either
way....good news for all our Mobile Cloud Pros and Specialists!