April 04, 2012, 8:30 AM —
In the year or so since Amazon launched its Prime Instant Video service, the company has been hard at work forging deals with different content providers in an effort to build out its library. I've covered these deals from time to time, most recently when Amazon added content from Discovery Networks. At the end of that piece I noted that Amazon's next goal had to be getting the service on to more devices.
As of yesterday they've taken a first step towards that goal, when Amazon Prime Instant Video and Amazon Video on Demand (the stuff you pay for) arrived on Sony's Playstation 3. I'm never one to shirk my 'laying on the couch watching TV' responsibilities, so I went hands-on with the new service.
In order to get started, you'll have to download a small app on the PS3. You'll find that option under the TV/Video Services column of the cross-media bar. Once the app is installed you'll get a code on the TV that you have to enter at http://amazon.com/mytv. Pretty much business as usual for streaming services on set-top boxes.
The main menu of the Amazon app looks a bit, well, Metro. You've got a menu bar across the top that lets you move from Prime Instant Videos to Movies and TV Shows (the latter two including both free Prime and paid content), but the bulk of the screen is taken up by a grid of square thumbnails with captions like "Your Video Library" (stuff you've purchased from Amazon Video-on-Demand), "Recently Watched", "Best of Prime" and "Next Episodes." This last option is nice: Amazon keeps track of where you've left off and makes it easy to grab, well, the next episodes.
Drill into Amazon Instant Prime and you get a different set of tiles, such as "Recently added," "TV:Editor's Choice" and "Movie Genres." The only somewhat unique options are a tile dedicated to breaking out TV shows by channel and a "For the Kids" tile.
These tiles vary a bit depending on whether you're looking at Prime (free) or paid choices, but you get the idea. I'd call the interface adequate. It's not terrible but after being spoiled by that new Hulu Plus interface on Android tablets, I find the Amazon UI to not be quite as good at exposing lots of content.
Of course, the point of all this is watching content. The good news is that the quality of stream was excellent as long as you just let it play. The bad news is that moving through a show is mighty clunky. You can bring up a progress bar and use Rewind and Fast Forward to move the current location pointer, but doing so doesn't interrupt playback; it'll just keep playing at normal speed. Once you get the pointer to where you want it (and at best you can guestimate that location) you have to hit the play/pause button (X on the controller) to actually change the picture. It's kind of bizarre how this works, or doesn't work, depending on your outlook.
I'm hoping we see a patch soon that supports, at a minimum, some kind of keyframe system to help you navigate. It's worth noting the the Amazon app on the Roku doesn't work this way (it uses a keyframe system). I know that fast forward and rewind in a streaming service can be tricky but both Netflix and Hulu Plus have it working right on the PS3 (and Amazon got it right on the Roku); let's hope we don't have too long a wait for a fix.
Those issues aside, it's nice to see Sony adding a new streaming option to the Playstation 3. It used to be that, in the endless battle between PS3 and Xbox 360, the PS3 was the clear victor in streaming media, but Microsoft has totally turned those tables. Of course the interface for the Amazon app really looks like it belongs on the Xbox 360, and Sony hasn't used the word 'exclusive' in any of their marketing efforts surrounding Amazon streaming. I wouldn't be surprised to see Amazon hit the Xbox 360 in the next few months; there's no upside to them limiting themselves to just one console.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to my Arrested Development marathon. A blogger's work is never done!
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.