As expected, Amazon launched the Prime Instant Video streaming service as part of the $79 per year Prime shipping service with about 5,000 movies and TV shows at launch. The streaming feature is only available for paid Prime accounts, not educational or "Mom" accounts.
As of this morning, Netflix has 11,565 titles (via Instantwatcher), and while Amazon only offers 5,000, they're just getting started. There are some big titles (like the Girl with The Dragon Tattoo series), most of the movie and TV shows are catalog titles. The number of titles is less important than the quality of the selection, and my initial impression is that Netflix has spent quite a bit of money to acquire a good mix of new and old titles, but Amazon has deep pockets and I expect them to improve the quality of the selection over time.
The strangest omission is the lack of a queue. Netflix is rumored to be dropping the queue, but I like saving movies I'm interested in for later watching. While scrolling through the Amazon Prime selection I saw several titles I would like to watch at another time, but there was no way to save or mark the title.
I'm a regular Amazon customer and have used the Prime service in the past, but always thought paying $80 per year for fast & free shipping was a bit high. With the addition of 5,000 movies and TV shows it's an interesting alternative to Netflix, but I think many Netflix customers will add Prime streaming (along with Hulu Plus).
With Netflix and Hulu Plus charging $7.99 per month, I'm wondering if Amazon will offer monthly pricing for Prime instead of the $79 per year fee ($6.58 per month).
Amazon is one of the few streaming competitors that has the ability to also sell new releases through video-on-demand, so having a so-so collection of movies and TV shows can drive people to purchase new releases on VOD or DVD. On the same page for Amadeus they also offered new releases on VOD like The Social Network and Inception, titles that Netflix customers would have to wait to get on DVD.
The Amazon Prime Instant Video service is also available on the Roku Player, Google TV, and other Amazon-supported hardware devices. Here's a shot of the Amazon service on the Roku Player:
Amazon is offering a free, one month trial of Prime with streaming.
Thanks to Jarrod, Chad, Seth, Jeff, Elizabeth, Tom, Arvid, and everyone else for sending this in.