Back in April, we introduced you to Vudu, the hybrid peer-to-peer video-on-demand box coming soon to a home theater near you. Today we got to play around with it a little more, and see how the navigation works. As I said, it's a hybrid peer-to-peer network, built to deliver instant playback of any of any of the 5,000 movies in its planned library. The first few seconds of each movie will already be stored on your box, so that you get a satisfying instant-play feeling even as its caching the download. A central server should mean satisfactory playback from the beginning, when there aren't many boxes deployed. The same system should also guarantee Vudu won't have the same high-demand p2p choke-up that Joost suffered recently. (Congestion-wise, it also helps Vudu that this is a pay-for-play service.)
Since Vudu makes every box and knows their exact capabilities, as well as all of the content coming and going, the "load-sharing" distribution will be easier to manage than a Joost-type PC based service. Vudu stores the most popular movies throughout the network using a predictive system to speed up delivery. On your home network, any background data sharing will have a low priority over the other internet activities, but when you kick on the Vudu and demand content, it takes your router's center stage.
The actual product announcement, including movie availability details, will happen later this summer, though we are told it will definitely ship this year, and for a price somewhere under $500. You will be able to buy or rent movies: 99 cents to $3.99 per rental; $4.99 to $19.99 per purchased movie, which will reside on the Vudu box and nowhere else. Vudu promises to let you download a purchased movie again, in the event of a hard-drive failure or some other catastrophe.
It's a very cool application of the technology, though coolness doesn't guarantee success, especially in the set-top box world. (See TiVo, then see Scientific Atlanta Explorer 8300HD.) To check out the user interface, click through the gallery to see how you drill down through genre, select a movie, then watch the trailer or get actor and director info. (My apologies if the shots are out of order—that's actually 100% Flickr, but I will say sorry anyhow.)