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Amazon recently launched its own video streaming program.
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updated 2/24/2011 8:08:18 AM ET 2011-02-24T13:08:18

Amazon recently unveiled its Amazon Prime unlimited video streaming service, an offering that will compete with a similar service from Netflix. You can use Amazon's new unlimited streaming deal to watch more than 5,000 movies and TV shows on your Mac or Windows PC, as well as select set-top boxes and Internet-connected TVs. The best part is Amazon Prime's video streaming is free with your annual $79 Prime membership fee. So how does Amazon's unlimited streaming service stack up against Netflix's all-you-can-watch video buffet? Let's take a look.

What is Amazon Prime?
Amazon Prime is a $79-per-year shipping discount service available for select items sold on Amazon. Prime offers you unlimited 2-day shipping with no minimum order size and a flat rate of $4 per item for one-day shipping. It's not clear why Amazon added video streaming to Prime, but for those already using the shipping service it's a nice bonus.

Title Showdown
On paper, Netflix's selection of about 20,000 titles beats out Amazon Prime's 5,000 titles, but there's a chance Amazon Prime could have the same popular titles as Netflix, right?

Wrong. Amazon Prime's selection isn't even close. A quick survey of Amazon's "Prime Eligible" pages for movies and TV shows reveals a dismal lack of popular and recent titles. For example, the top 5 Prime movies, according to Amazon's page, are "The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest" (2009); "Hairspray" (2007); "Analyze This" (1999); "Contact" (1997); and "Charlie's Angels" (2000). Netflix's most recent movie arrivals include "Star Trek" (2009); "2012" (2009); "Crank 2: High Voltage" (2009); "Imagine That" (2009)" and "The Young Victoria" (2009).

None of the Netflix recent arrivals is available on Amazon Prime; however, you can stream these same titles using Amazon Instant Video, the site's pay-per-view streaming service.

Then again, if you just want unlimited access to movies such as "March of The Penguins," "Amadeus," "Syriana" and "A Clockwork Orange," then Prime will suit you just fine.

Price
There's no denying that Amazon Prime beats Netflix on price. Prime costs $79 per year, plus you get free shipping on some of your Amazon purchases. Netflix's streaming-only deal will run you $7.99 a month so with Prime you save about $1.41 per month or $16.88 per year. Just keep in mind that with a cheaper price comes a much smaller selection.

Platform
Thanks to the wide availability of Amazon Instant, Prime streaming titles are available on Mac or PC computers and on nearly 200 Internet-connected TVs and set-top boxes including Blu-ray players. Netflix is also on a comparable number of HDTVs and set-top boxes including Apple TV, a set-top box that doesn't offer Amazon Instant Video.

In addition, Netflix streaming is available on a limited number of mobile devices including the iPod Touch and iPhone (iOS 3.1.3 and up), iPad and Windows Phone 7 devices. Netflix is also expected to unveil an Android streaming app.

Less for less
There you have it. At $1.41 more per month, Netflix beats Amazon Prime on selection and platform availability. So unless you absolutely need Amazon's free shipping deal, don't cancel your Netflix subscription just yet.

Connect with Ian Paul (@ianpaul) and Today@PCWorld on Twitter for the latest tech news and analysis.

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