Roku & Amazon: Cloud vs Hard Drive

I've owned a Roku video player for almost a year now, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm a fan. In case you aren't familiar with the Roku, it's a $99 device that initially was for streaming Netflix's "Watch Now" content to a television. The device is compact and works like a charm, and back when I bought it, it was the only out-of-the-box option for getting a Netflix stream direct to your TV.

Of course since that time, the XBox 360 has added Netflix support, as have a number of Blu-ray players, and this spring, you'll even be able to buy a TV with Netflix streaming built in. (There are plenty of companies betting that Netflix isn't going anywhere!) Roku wasn't sitting still during all this, though. They've promised to add new sources of content to their box, and this morning the first of those promises came true: you can now stream Amazon's Video on Demand service to the Roku.

As I was surfing around reading about this announcement, I read a comment that got me thinking. Amazon allows renting or purchasing content, but the Roku has no hard drive. This commenter — and I honestly can't remember where I read this; it may have been on Twitter (where else?) — questioned why anyone would buy content if it was going to remain "in the cloud." If you watch Amazon's Video on Demand on a PC or a Tivo, you can download purchased content and keep it locally. Obviously this isn't an option on the Roku.

I don't think I really care all that much if my content is in the cloud, to be honest. Ideally, I'd still like a store-bought hard copy with a spiffy case and all that. I like to browse our shelves of movie boxes looking for a DVD or Blu-ray to watch, but if I'm not going to own the physical media, I don't really care where my digital version "lives."

I can see where people who travel a lot would want to download a copy to keep on their laptop for watching on the go, but they can still do that. The only drawback I can see with the Roku is, what happens if your internet goes out? And that's a valid concern, but I'm blessed with a very reliable net connection (knock on wood). My counter argument is this: if you're downloading your content, what happens when your hard drive fails? Sure, you can burn a DVD copy or something, but then you're back to having physical media.

I think I'm very content letting Amazon store my digital copies of any Amazon Video On Demand content I might purchase. That feels easy to me. Let them worry about backups and storage space and all that. (The big caveat here is all the noise we're hearing about ISPs putting bandwidth caps in place. That could rain on everyone's parade.) I love that the Roku is silent and small with no moving parts. I just want to turn on my TV and let the Roku stream my content to me.

What do you think? Am I on the right track, or am I just making excuses for my treasured Roku box? Would you purchase content that was going to remain in the cloud?

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