Microsoft dropped a nice surprise on Xbox 360 owners yesterday by adding Amazon Streaming to the suite of video apps offered via Xbox Live Gold, thereby ending Sony's (roughly) 7 weeks of Amazon exclusivity on gaming consoles.
This means that anyone with both an Amazon and an Xbox Live Gold account can buy or rent streaming video from Amazon and deliver it to the Xbox 360, and Amazon Prime members (who, again, are also Xbox Live Gold members) can access Amazon Prime Streaming on the console.
I took the app for a spin and it pretty much works as advertised. I liked that I could just sign in to my Amazon account on the Xbox 360 without having to go to a website to get a code (which many video apps ask you to do) and, as we've pretty much come to expect, Kinect voice commands work very nicely. I'm actually getting to the point where I no longer feel silly talking to my entertainment center.
There are two flies in the ointment. First, searching Amazon content from within the app doesn't support voice; we're back to that horizontal row of letters across the top of the screen. The Xbox's Bing search does support voice but results from Amazon don't seem to be included there (at least not yet).
Second, fast forwarding through a piece of content doesn't offer any kind of keyframe or visual indication of where you are in that content. This is a problem with the Playstation 3 version of the Amazon Instant Streaming app as well.
These are both minor annoyances rather than deal breakers, though, and adding one more video app to the Xbox 360, particularly one available on the competition, is a step forward for Microsoft.
For Amazon, though, this is a huge leap. Assuming Amazon's intention is to become a threat to Netflix, it has to get its content on as many devices as possible, and the Xbox 360 is (or at least is becoming) a very popular device for streaming here in the US.
Xbox Live gamers who don't have an Amazon Prime account (to take advantage of unlimited streaming) can sign up for a 1 month free trial.
Here's the very high energy intro trailer for Amazon Streaming on Xbox 360:
The timing of this launch is a little curious; I'm surprised Microsoft didn't hold it back for a "starting today" reveal at its press conference at E3 next Monday. I guess this means they have even bigger surprises in store for us!
Read more of Peter Smith's TechnoFile blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Peter on Twitter at @pasmith. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.