Television has just taken a big step into the future with a new partnership between Amazon.com and TiVo that TiVo users to download movies and TV episodes directly into their TiVo boxes. The partnership is called Amazon Unbox on TiVo. All you do is register with Amazon, and then start clicking away at whatever you want. No more trips to Blockbuster, or even to the post office to mail movies back to Netflix: What you order turns up in the "Now Playing" section of your TiVo box.
There are about 1,600 titles available, with more coming all the time. You can buy movies and keep them forever (usually about $15) or rent them for a 30-day period (about $4). Individual episodes of TV shows rent for about $2, and the selection ranges from the latest episode of 24 to the entire first (and last) season of The Time Tunnel , in case you didn't have TiVo in 1966.
There are a couple of catches here. You need a comparatively recent TiVo box -- series two or three -- to download from Unboxed. And it's got to be connected via broadband rather than a telephone line. It's also got to be a real TiVo box, not one of the generic digital video recorders distributed by Direct TV and many cable companies.
There's nothing new about downloading movies or TV shows, of course. The difference is now you don't have to watch them on your computer, or connect your computer to your television -- that is, you don't have to be clinically insane about TV or a hopeless technogeek. We've been hearing about the wired home for a long time; now it's becoming a reality.