Having endured the Vongo ads during various football games the past few days, I figured I'd at least check it out. I wasn't sure what to expect, and boy was I surprised. If you don't already know, Vongo is a new digital movie distribution site that allows users to download as many movies as they want for $9.99 a month. Intriguing, for sure, but riddled with artificial restrictions, apparently.
For one thing, Vongo is deeply, deeply Microsoft-centric. So deeply, in fact, that you can't even view their website with a browser claiming to come from another OS. With a Linux or Mac browser, the only possible option is to enter your email address to be notified if/when your OS is supported.
This means that you can't do any research on Vongo from anything but a Windows box -- Switching FireFox to identify itself as IE on Windows XP completely broke the site rendering, and hitting the site from my Nokia N95 (as I would imagine lots of people will do when seeing the ads on football games in bars or at a friend's house) gave me the nice "Incompatible OS" page as well, preventing me from getting any more information about Vongo. Handy.
Also, if you enter in 'vongo.com' to go directly to the site, it redirects to 'www.vongo.com.', a typo that thankfully most browsers ignore, but does show a certain lack of attention to detail.
So I wandered around the site with my Windows XP VM, looking for some answers to what's really happening on the back end. It seems that the only compatible playback devices are Windows XP, 2000, and Vista, or an Xbox 360. I could find no mention of playback on portable devices, although the commercials made a point of referencing this ability (and a point of not mentioning/showing an iPod). I'd guess that the Zune is supported, but I've seen no specific information on that issue.
But the fact that they were expecting to support portable devices without specifically mentioning the Zune gave me a flicker of hope that these movies might not be horrendously crippled for playback on other devices, like my iPod, Nokia N95, and Mac. Those hopes were dashed when I read this on their site:
"In order to enjoy the full experience of Vongo and Media Center Edition feature integration with Windows Vista, we strongly recommend that you uninstall the Vongo application software prior to upgrading to Vista. (Please Note: When you uninstall Vongo you will lose movies and videos already downloaded to your library. Because Windows 2000 and XP are separate and distinct operating systems from Vista, there is simply no technical means of porting Vongo videos across operating systems. As a Vongo subscriber you can always replace the videos in your library at no charge.)"
Really? The movies you download on XP won't be playable on Vista due to technical reasons? Please. Pull the other one, it's got bells on. This little lie is probably in place just to convince potential users to upgrade to Vista first, with Vongo as the proverbial carrot.
So it seems to me that Vongo has been designed as a Vista delivery catalyst and little more...and why would I want to artificially restrict myself so heavily, to the point where upgrading to another Microsoft OS will cause me to lose the movies I've already downloaded?
Amazon recently started offering $8.99 non-DRM MP3 albums. I've bought several so far, since I can use them on any of my playback devices, from my Sonos system to my Linux workstations and laptops to my iPod. It's this reason that I don't use the iTunes store, or any other crippled delivery system. So sorry, Vongo, but I'm completely uninterested.