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Thursday, July 17, 2008, 07:00 am PT (10:00 am ET)

Future Sony HDTVs to embed support for new Amazon video service

Industry heavyweights Amazon and Sony are aligning to take on the combination of Apple's iTunes and Apple TV set-top-box with a new Amazon-powered video on demand service that will see embedded support on all future Sony Bravia HDTV sets.

Amazon plans to begin testing the new service, dubbed Amazon Video on Demand, later today through a select number of its existing customers, according to the New York Times. Initially, the service will allow customers to access and immediately begin streaming any of 40,000 movies and television programs directly from their Mac of Windows PC.

“For the first time, this is drop dead simple,” said Bill Carr, Amazon’s vice president for digital media. “Our goal is to create an immersive experience where people can’t help but get caught up in how exciting it is to simply watch a movie right from Amazon.com with a click of the button.”

The new service differs somewhat from Apple's iTunes video services and Amazon's earlier Unbox offering in that it will allow customers to purchase and begin watching movies or TV shows without having to actually download the video file to a hard drive, potentially increasing the number of device with which it could ultimately become compatible.

Amazon is also hoping to establish a presence in the living room, and has forged a deal with Sony Electronics to place its new video service on the electronics maker's Bravia line of high-definition TVs.

Initially, the service will be accessible through the Sony Bravia Internet Video link, a $300 accessory that allows the flagship line of Bravia HDTVs to connect to a world of Internet videos. However, future Bravia sets will come with the capability built in, according to the Times, allowing customers to access alternative media through the new Amazon service right out of the box.

Going forward, Carr said Amazon will seek to strike similar deals with other HDTV manufacturers and video device makers.

As part of its new service, Amazon says it will store video purchases in a video library so that customers can then watch that show or movie whenever they return to Amazon.com, even if it is from a different computer or portable device.

“I can be at my office, purchase a movie, and then it will be available on my television at home,” Robert Jacobs, a senior manager at Sony Electronics, told the Times “Creating this on-demand available-everywhere access to premium content is going to be very attractive to consumers.”

Although Amazon says its new service can support both both streaming and downloading, the current incarnation is stream only. This has helped the online retailer gain the support of a broad range of studios because Hollywood sees streamed content as less conducive to piracy.

The lone holdouts, however, are Walt Disney and ABC, both of which have close ties to Apple.