Amazon to the TV before Apple

The Amazon/TiVo partnership announced last month has officially rolled out. Nearly 1.5mm TiVo subscribers can now buy or rent digital movies (and buy TV shows) from Amazon’s Unbox service and download / watch those movies on their TV via their TiVo. Nearly 600,000 of the 1.5mm compatible TiVo boxes are connected to broadband Internet connections. Amazon/TiVo are offering $15 in free movies and TV shows to get users to try the service.

This is the second time that Amazon has beaten Apple to the punch — you’ll recall that Amazon rolled-out their Unbox service one week prior to Apple rolling out their own service for selling digital movies / TV shows. That didn’t seem to matter, as Apple has rolled over Amazon with digital movie and TV show sales.

This might be another one-week head start that Amazon has to gain some ground with their digital movie / TV show downloads service to the TV, considering the much-anticipated Apple TV is expected to release later this month. However, Apple has all their passionate iPod users (60 million strong) and have also sold millions of digital movies / TV shows that users will easily be able to watch on their new Apple TV device instantly.

Amazon also offers movie rentals, whereas Apple still does not, despite rumors. Amazon appears to offer nearly 1,000 videos for sale and nearly 500 for rental. A movie download to the TiVo appears to take an hour (from one perspective), whereas consumers can still get pay-per-view or video-on-demand movies instantly — however they offer a limited selection of titles.

Competitors loom, with Wal-mart entering the digital movie downloads market last month and others have existed for awhile — Guba, CinemaNow, and Movielink.

Editor’s Note: This post by Steve Poland, whose blog Techquila Shots brainstorms web start-up ideas. Steve will be at SXSW this weekend if you want to chat about web start-ups.